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Plate Readers Abound in DC Area, With Little Regard For Privacy 268

Posted by timothy
from the hey-I-imagined-it dept.
schwit1 writes "More than 250 cameras in Washington D.C. and its suburbs scan license plates in real time. It's a program that's quietly expanded beyond what anyone had imagined even a few years ago. Some jurisdictions store the information in a large networked database; others retain it only in the memory of each individual reader's computer, then delete it after several weeks as new data overwrite it. A George Mason University study last year found that 37 percent of large police agencies in the United States now use license plate reader technology and that a significant number of other agencies planned to have it by the end of 2011. But the survey found that fewer than 30 percent of the agencies using the tool had researched any legal implications. With virtually no public debate, police agencies have begun storing the information from the cameras, building databases that document the travels of millions of vehicles."
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Plate Readers Abound in DC Area, With Little Regard For Privacy

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  • shake out.

    Right now the Supreme Court is considering a case as to whether GPS monitoring of a car constitutes a search in the 4th Amendment sense, i.e. requiring probable cause or a warrant. This is important because one of the key car surveillance cases of the 20th century (Knotts v. United States) upheld beeper surveillance of cars but included dicta stating that "dragnet surveillance" could be debated by the court as a separate matter.

    I am currently hopeful that pervasive and intrusive surveillance methods like this will be struck down by the courts, as the third circuit has already expressed doubts regarding historic cell site location data (case name: "In the matter of the application of the United States for an Order directing the provider of a communications service to disclose records to the government," third circuit, 2010). The Third Circuit more or left let magistrate judges make that determinations for themselves.

  • Re:A sad world. (Score:5, Informative)

    by zebidee (40430) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:31AM (#38123110) Homepage
    The problem isn't the state doing this tracking - it's private corporations. Gas stations in the UK perform number plate recognition in order to avoid "drive-offs." But if you're then using your store loyalty card with your gas purchase then they've tied your number plate to your purchase history/patterns. On top of that the store can easily access the DVLA records [dailymail.co.uk] [dailymail.co.uk].

    In the UK we also have a system called TrafficMaster [trafficmaster.co.uk] [trafficmaster.co.uk] which analyses traffic flow for their satnav services. There is, however, nothing to prevent them working with the stores to cross-reference number-plates against traffic flow. So now the store can find out exactly where you're driving as well.

    That kind of information is something I never signed up for & one of the reasons I'll never have a store loyalty card.

  • Re:ANPR is old news (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:34AM (#38123142)

    Yeah in the UK a bunch of drive throughs like McD use it to check you havent parked up and gone shopping. They anpr your plate in and outbound and if greater than a signposted time has elasped they send you a ticket using the govenment database to get your details.

    Whilst not legally enforceable most people pay up

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/watchdog/2010/04/mcdonalds_parking.html

    excert below

    They usually allow free parking for between 60 and 75 minutes and no return within 90 to 120 minutes.

    If you break these strict conditions, your meal could be an unhappy one as Richard Kerr discovered.

    On the way to collect his mum from Stansted Airport, Richard picked up a quarter pounder with cheese from McDonalds. When he collected his Mum, she was hungry so they returned to the restaurant about half an hour later.

    Charges for repeat custom
    Two weeks later, Richard received a demand to pay charges from Met Parking. He had spent a total of just 47 minutes on site but because he had left and then returned within the forbidden 90 minutes, his car was clocked by the camera and he was served a parking charge.

  • by sunderland56 (621843) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:59AM (#38123358)

    Right now the Supreme Court is considering a case as to whether GPS monitoring of a car constitutes a search in the 4th Amendment sense, i.e. requiring probable cause or a warrant.>

    That is a very different situation in the legal sense. GPS monitoring requires the authorities to attach a device to your car - so they must trespass onto your private property, and leave the device on your private property. They also track you whether you are on public or private property. Their use will, hopefully, be found to be "unreasonable search and seizure".

    Cameras, on the other hand, do not trespass at all - they only record from a public location what is happening on public property. Their use in the UK is certainly settled case law; their use in the USA is pretty much settled law as well.

  • Re:A sad world. (Score:2, Informative)

    by shentino (1139071) on Monday November 21, 2011 @10:39AM (#38123742)

    Governments, however, are bound by the 4th amendment.

    Consider, for example, the protection afforded letters handled by the postal system.

    If someone working for UPS cracks open a parcel, it's a civilian matter involving breach of contract and theft.

    If someone working for the USPS cracks open a letter (without a warrant), it's an illegal search and seizure.

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