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ACLU Questions Privacy of License Plate Scanners 246

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
coastal984 writes with news that the American Civil Liberties Union is launching a nation-wide effort to find out how police departments are using and retaining information gathered from license plate scanners. They've sent FOIA requests to departments in 38 states, as well as the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Transportation. "It’s not an exaggeration to say that in ten years there will be [automatic license plate readers] just about everywhere, making detailed records of every driver’s every movement, and storing it for who knows how long. In some cases, we know that the worst-case scenario—vast databases with records of movements of massive numbers of people—is already happening. To avoid this fate we need to convince the nation and our lawmakers to take action on this serious threat to our liberty. And to make a convincing case, we need to know a lot more about the problem as it stands. Last year, most people didn’t know why we should call our mobiles 'trackers' instead of phones; there was very little public information on how police departments were using our phones to track our location. The ACLU stepped in and spearheaded a massive public records project, bringing together affiliates from every part of the country, obtaining documents that showed how police nationwide were getting access to our intimate information without judicial oversight."
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ACLU Questions Privacy of License Plate Scanners

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  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:28AM (#40828487) Homepage Journal

    To avoid this fate we need to convince the nation and our lawmakers to take action on this serious threat to our liberty.

    ... you're shitting me, right? Asking politicians to not make laws which restrict the freedoms of their people is like asking a mako shark to please not take a chunk out of my ass - neither is capable of understanding either your request, or reason in general.

    • by ThatsMyNick (2004126) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:47AM (#40828777)

      How else are you going to do this? The law in it's present state allows this sort of monitoring. We after all do vote for these politicians. Might as well ask them to do something for us.

      • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @11:33AM (#40829371) Homepage Journal

        The law in it's present state allows this sort of monitoring.

        Actually, it it doesn't; [archives.gov] the only reason the federals get to take carte blanche with regard to ignoring Constitutional limitations is because they hold the states hostage via extortion, i.e. "pass this draconian law / allow us to enforce this unconstitutional law in your state, or we'll pull funding from your critical programs." Personally, I don't imagine any elected President would have the balls to actually pull funding, especially during an election year, but the threat seems to be sufficient to keep the states enslaved, er, in line.

        The only out I see at this point is to return power to the states by producing what we need on our own, without federal dollars. Barring that, we're screwed.

        We after all do vote for these politicians.

        Yup, and it matters not, a single iota. [wikipedia.org] Besides, voting out one lobbyist-controlled, billionaire criminal to replace them with another lobbyist-controlled, billionaire criminal hasn't worked for us yet; what's the point in continuing to flog that poor dead horse?

        • by uncqual (836337) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @12:03PM (#40829741)

          The law in it's present state allows this sort of monitoring.

          Actually, it it doesn't

          There's nothing in the BoR or constitutional case law that even remotely prevents this sort of monitoring. State issued license plates are (in most cases) required on vehicles driven on public streets. They are, and must, remain visible to all. A police officer, your neighbor, or a random guy on the street can see them. There is no expectation of privacy of your license number. Anyone can take a picture or video of your car, and its license number, on a public street - they can even use a telephoto lens. They can do almost anything they like with the images, including extracting license numbers from the images.

          • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @12:26PM (#40829985) Homepage Journal

            A police officer, your neighbor, or a random guy on the street can see them. There is no expectation of privacy of your license number. Anyone can take a picture or video of your car, and its license number, on a public street - they can even use a telephoto lens. They can do almost anything they like with the images, including extracting license numbers from the images.

            OK, first, let's get rid of this "random person" fallacy - My neighbors/random people have zero interest in what I do from day-to-day, and the feeling is reciprocal, rightly so. If a random person/neighbor were to follow me around everywhere I go, keeping a log of everything I do, regardless of whether or not I am in public, I can have them arrested for stalking/harassment, because it is illegal for people to harass each other in such a way. Not to mention, my neighbors/random people do not profit from the incarceration of myself or anyone else.

            In no logical sense are the two (government / private citizens) comparable - Put the strawman down, and step away slowly.

            There's nothing in the BoR or constitutional case law that even remotely prevents this sort of monitoring.

            Really? So the Fourth Amendment does not state that "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized?"

            Or perhaps you're disputing the idea that surveillance is effectively a search?

            Does the Fifth Amendment not say "No person... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself?" Or does tracking my movements, waiting for me to slip up, then using said movements against me somehow not constitute self-incrimination?

            Then there's the Sixth Amendment, which states: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right... to be confronted with the witnesses against him." Kind of hard to do when the "witness" is a software program that is incapable of distinguishing an individual human from their plate number, isn't it? Seriously, how's that supposed to work?

            Defendant: Your honor, I would like to bring the database containing my license plate tracking information to the stand, so that it may be cross-examined.

            Lemme know how that one works out.

            While not directly stated in the Constitution, the "presumption of innocence" has been established as the basis of our laws for quite sometime, and is backed by precedent: "The principle that there is a presumption of innocence in favor of the accused is the undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary, and its enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal law." - Decision, Coffin v. United States [wikipedia.org]

            Tracking systems such as this not only violate our Constitutional right to travel freely without fear of government harassment, they run afoul of the ages-honored tradition of 'innocent until proven guilty.'

            • by uncqual (836337) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @01:56PM (#40831351)
              Your understanding of the Constitution is obviously at odds with virtually all precedent. Perhaps you're living in an alternate universe.

              OK, first, let's get rid of this "random person" fallacy - My neighbors/random people have zero interest in what I do from day-to-day, and the feeling is reciprocal, rightly so. If a random person/neighbor were to follow me around everywhere I go, keeping a log of everything I do, regardless of whether or not I am in public, I can have them arrested for stalking/harassment, because it is illegal for people to harass each other in such a way. Not to mention, my neighbors/random people do not profit from the incarceration of myself or anyone else.

              Nope. You might be able to get a restraining order against them that includes not tracking you -- but generally only if there's some other factor involved (such as explicit or implicit threats). Private detectives working on, for example, workman comp cases track, follow, photograph people all the time.

              The one exception is that you mention "regardless of whether or not I am in public". It is true that a random person can't legally come into your house to watch you eat dinner without your approval. Nor, generally, can the police without the approval of the court. The license plate scanners are only looking at publicly visible plates so the only part of your statement that is correct is irrelevant to the topic at hand and is a red herring. Nice try.

              In no logical sense are the two (government / private citizens) comparable - Put the strawman down, and step away slowly.

              Yes, the government has more power than a private citizen, so you are correct in that regard. But, again, this works against you. For example, as a private citizen I can not detain you, charge you with a crime, try you, convict you, and imprison you for life - but various government actors can, and do, regularly. A police officer has just as much right to observe your behavior without your approval as a private citizen does.

              It is true that if I break into your house, without coordination with law enforcement officials, and observe that you have bodies of a bunch of missing children piled in your bedroom, I can go tell the police and they can then use my information to get a search warrant and what they find is admissible. If, however, a police officer entered your house w/o cause and without a warrant, the fact that the bodies were found would likely be inadmissible (under the exclusionary rule - an invention of the SCOTUS to deter abuses by law enforcement). Note, however, that if police break into your house because of an immediate threat, such as smoke billowing from the roof and someone screaming inside, and observe the bodies while looking for the screaming person, the bodies and their location would likely be admissible.

              Does the Fifth Amendment not say "No person... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself?" Or does tracking my movements, waiting for me to slip up, then using said movements against me somehow not constitute self-incrimination?

              Not worth responding to, but I will anyway. NO. Self incrimination is requiring you to speak/testify in a way that will tend to incriminate you. Even things that you said voluntarily and were recorded (such as voice mails you left long before arrest or even before you were a suspect) or a videotaped confession after you were properly informed of your rights can be used against you in a court of law. Nor is the Fifth Amendment a restriction on the actions of anyone else. The Fifth Amendment doesn't even, for example, prevent the government from taking a DNA sample from you with a court order (which are routinely granted) -- because giving up your DNA is not incriminating yourself - your DNA is physical evidence.

              Really? So the Fourth Amendment does not state that "The right of the people to be secure in their person

        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          I just saw a brief blurb on the local news in LA, that the state troopers down here, were looking closely at peoples' plates to see if they were obscured....due I guess to some problems lately with the traffic cams catching them, and I think I heard some police cars are now being outfitted here with plate readers.

          I'm really wanting to get some of the high powered infrared LEDs and rig them up around my license plate...but with a switch in the cabin, to be able to turn them 'off' when appropriate...near a l

      • by mhajicek (1582795)
        You can ask all you want, it will fall on deaf ears. Money talks.
    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:51AM (#40828835) Homepage

      That's not quite right, and does a disservice to politicians who actually do give a damn about civil liberties, e.g. Ron Paul and Russ Feingold.

      For instance, back in 2002 the Bush administration created the Total Information Awareness project, where the NSA was going to basically intercept all Internet traffic in the US and build profiles of everybody based on what they saw. After years of agitating by the usual suspects (including the ACLU and EFF) Congress defunded the agency.

      However, what the NSA appears to have done in response to Congress expressly saying that they shouldn't do this: (1) Rename the program. (2) Make the whole thing classified. (3) Move the budget lineitem to a different spending category. (4) Continue as if nothing had happened. So the problem isn't exactly all politicians being power-hungry bastards, it's that power-hungry presidents (and both Bush and Obama are involved in this, it isn't a partisan thing) can work with a power-hungry national security state to do whatever the heck they want without the approval of Congress.

      • by geekmux (1040042)

        That's not quite right, and does a disservice to politicians who actually do give a damn about civil liberties, e.g. Ron Paul and Russ Feingold.

        For instance, back in 2002 the Bush administration created the Total Information Awareness project, where the NSA was going to basically intercept all Internet traffic in the US and build profiles of everybody based on what they saw. After years of agitating by the usual suspects (including the ACLU and EFF) Congress defunded the agency.

        However, what the NSA appears to have done in response to Congress expressly saying that they shouldn't do this: (1) Rename the program. (2) Make the whole thing classified. (3) Move the budget lineitem to a different spending category. (4) Continue as if nothing had happened. So the problem isn't exactly all politicians being power-hungry bastards, it's that power-hungry presidents (and both Bush and Obama are involved in this, it isn't a partisan thing) can work with a power-hungry national security state to do whatever the heck they want without the approval of Congress.

        Kind of pointless to bring up names like Paul and Feingold in the same breath that you describe the exact state of helplessness we are currently in, as if either one of them are in a position to actually do anything. Oh wait a second, I almost forgot. Technically, they ARE in a position to actually do something, and yet here we are, still helpless.

        Kind of makes you wonder why we're even having this conversation as if monitoring of citizens has really changed at all in the last 50 years by No Such Agency.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by Hatta (162192)

        Ron Paul doesn't care about civil liberties. He just thinks civil liberties should be violated at the state, not federal, level.

        • by cayenne8 (626475)

          Ron Paul doesn't care about civil liberties. He just thinks civil liberties should be violated at the state, not federal, level.

          Well, at least at the state level, the people have more of a 'say' in the matters, and can affect change more efficiently.

  • Where is the line? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:33AM (#40828561) Journal

    Anyone can sit down and write down liscense plate numbers. Citizens have done this on their own when they have suspected a house on their block of drug trafficking. Very few would consider this to be an invasion of privacy.

    Police officers routinely check license plates against a registry of stolen cars. Few would consider this to be an invasion of privacy.

    If police placed a device on my car that told them where I was 24/7, I'd consider that an invasion of privacy.

    Having traffic plate scanners all over the place seems like an extension of case #2 where the police are checking license plates on their own... but simply using technology to speed up the process. Where is the line? Is it the automation and efficiency? Would we be upset if automated systems were in place to catch stolen cars or those with outstanding warrants? Or is it storing of the data so that someone else can use the data later for a non-law enforcement type purpose? Would we have a problem with the system if it was incapable of storing the data?

    • by The Raven (30575) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:38AM (#40828615) Homepage

      I would be fine with the trackers if they stored only the most recent location a particular car was detected, and retrieving that location required either the registered owner to report it stolen, or a warrant.

      As long as locations can be stored forever, and retrieved at a whim, abuse will be significant.

      • by kg261 (990379)
        Yes the risk that data stored is wrong (somebody uses phony plates, clerical error, unauthorized access...) seems like a big risk to everybody. Many times have I read stories of police going to the wrong address with things turning out badly. This just seems like another thing to go wrong.
      • For most things, I don't see why location should even be a data point.

        I like the idea of police having an OCR to scan all plates near them and flag cars that are stolen or have warrants. However, there is no need to update any file with the location the plate was detected. A simple "Blue Ford at your 5-o'clock position is reported stolen" is enough.

      • by nabsltd (1313397)

        As long as locations can be stored forever, and retrieved at a whim, abuse will be significant.

        And let's not forget that every database like this seems to get hacked, so this means that stalkers/burglars/whoever will also end up with the information.

    • Anyone can sit down and write down liscense plate numbers.

      But don't waste my tax money doing it to everyone in an automated way.

      • If your biggest concern with this is tax dollars, then you've missed the point.

        • Maybe cheekyjohnson didn't miss the point, but is providing an alternative effective argument against tracking. It's not just an affront to liberty, it's an unjustified financial burden. Sometimes money talks louder than liberties.
          • No. It is a non sequitor. The original question is when does tracking become an invasion of privacy. Cheeky came back with "it isn't a useful use of money". He may be right. He may be wrong. But it has nothing to do with the story or my questions.

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            Maybe cheekyjohnson didn't miss the point, but is providing an alternative effective argument against tracking. It's not just an affront to liberty, it's an unjustified financial burden. Sometimes money talks louder than liberties.

            Yeah, I'm sure it'll fly at City Hall - the automated scanners are probably much cheaper to run than doing it by police walking the beat and calling in every plate they see.

            The only possible way to justify it is if they constantly check parking meters and issue tickets when they e

            • Quick question, at what point does your sampling turn into tracking?

              The hardware gets cheap enough to put at every intersection with a stoplight, the camara is already there to control the timing of the lights. They record every plate going through those intersections and store the date and time. A year from now your significant other wants to know where you were on Halloween, the lawyer subpeonas the records and now the lawyer has access to your location all night long.

      • But don't waste my tax money doing it to everyone in an automated way.

        Cameras are cheap, and OCR software is even cheaper. In fact, the low cost is the problem, because it means this may soon be ubiquitous. It also would not be a "waste": an accurate database of the movement of every car would likely be very useful in solving and deterring crime. But as a society, we need to decide if the tradeoff is worth it. We also need to decide where the line is drawn. Should it be legal for me to point a camera out a window of my house and record cars that pass by? What if I then

        • In fact, the low cost is the problem

          What I meant was this: I believe it's both a waste of money and an invasion of privacy to get information about nearly everyone (probably in an automated way) simply because some people are criminals. Of course, even if it didn't waste money, I'd be against it.

          Should it be legal for me to point a camera out a window of my house and record cars that pass by?

          You doing it isn't like the government doing it. The government is a very powerful group of people with far more power than you.

          • Honestly, it appears we are on the same side on this. My respectful recommendation is to drop the "waste of money" argument. Waste of money is incredibly subjective; you will likely get many law enforcement officials who will very persuasively argue its effectiveness. With access to more data than you or me, we'd lose this argument very quickly. The more effecive argument, IMHO, is that it is wrong to store data about innocent (in the legal sense) people. While there is no expectation of privacy, I certainl

            • Waste of money is incredibly subjective

              Well, yes. That was my opinion. Besides, you can make more than one argument at a time.

              The more effecive argument, IMHO, is that it is wrong to store data about innocent (in the legal sense) people.

              That is more important to me. However, the problem is that some average people honestly believe the "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" arguments (or similar ones like "to stop the terrorists" or "for the children"). They'll twist any opposing argument to make themselves look good.

              • Exactly. "Waste of money" gets the attention of all the idiots who don't see large scale invasions of personal privacy as a problem. But tell them the their own money is paying for it and suddenly they are interested.
    • by Jaqenn (996058) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:42AM (#40828695)
      The issue here is that technology has progressed to a point that we're discovering that it's possible to have a situation that's never been a problem before.

      If you look at the warrant process, it's attempting to keep the government from messing with you unless they have 'a good reason'. Having a detective follow a suspect around to see what they do has, up until now, been naturally limited by funding and manpower to cases where the police had 'a good reason', and so we've never had to make up external limits on the activity.

      As police activity becomes less and less limited by funding and manpower, we have to check if we need to start imposing outside limitations instead.
    • by cvtan (752695)
      I once had a temp job back in 1970 where I was required to sit at a designated intersection and write down 5 license plate numbers of cars going by every 15 minutes or so. I was never told why I was doing this and after a week I became uneasy and pressed for more information. They refused to explain anything and I quit. Just felt creepy.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      The difference is it now makes it possible to track your movements at all time.

      I would say even in the case of officers recording this data by hand they should have to dispose of it after some amount of time. No good can come of this type of thing, only bad.

    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:50AM (#40828823) Journal

      IMO, it comes down to the storage of the data. Regardless of the actual purpose, the storage of the data means that it can be accessed for purposes which may or may not be in the interest of the general public. More troubling is that storage of any data leaves it vulnerable to loss or theft, where it can be used by people who do not have authorization. If one thing has been proven time and again, it is that stored data has a finite chance of being lost, stolen, or leaked - and no matter what penalties you create, nothing you can do will get that data back.

      Correlation of data and movement patterns is also somewhat of a concern, but moreso for people who prefer to be anonymous in their daily lives. It's a relatively small but vocal group - at least vocal here on slashdot. One could suggest that the use of credit cards and frequent shopper cards in return for discounts is a "fair trade" of money for divulging personal information. In the case of police actions, it could be argued that the reduced need for personnel to manually monitor these things reduces overall costs and thus results in an effective reduction in taxes (example: both Maryland and Virginia have operated the past two years with roughly 12% lower tax income - about $2 Billion/yr combined; taxes really do go down sometimes). The question still must be asked - does the benefit of the "service" justify the cost.

      If the system were incapable of storing data, I suspect it would not be nearly as much of a concern, but there would still some outcry against the perceived 24/7 monitoring.

      • by Solandri (704621)

        Correlation of data and movement patterns is also somewhat of a concern, but moreso for people who prefer to be anonymous in their daily lives.

        I disagree. Long-term, I think this is going to be the bigger problem. If the government is retaining data on people's movements, it's pretty easy to find out. Suspicious behavior by certain officials as if they're hiding something, a boy scout or whistleblower, leads to a FOIA request and the data is out there for the voters to see. It's then pretty obvious to

    • Anyone can sit down and write down liscense plate numbers.

      And in theory you could hire an army of people to stand on every corner and record every license plate they see - and that would be an invasion of privacy.

      The problem isn't the scanners. That's how they keep tabs on everybody's movements. The problem is that they think it's OK to keep tabs on everybody's movement.

    • by ukemike (956477)

      Anyone can sit down and write down license plate numbers.
      1 Citizens have done this on their own when they have suspected a house on their block of drug trafficking. Very few would consider this to be an invasion of privacy.
      2 Police officers routinely check license plates against a registry of stolen cars. Few would consider this to be an invasion of privacy.
      3 If police placed a device on my car that told them where I was 24/7, I'd consider that an invasion of privacy.
      Having traffic plate scanners all over the place seems like an extension of case #2 where the police are checking license plates on their own... but simply using technology to speed up the process. Where is the line? Is it the automation and efficiency? Would we be upset if automated systems were in place to catch stolen cars or those with outstanding warrants? Or is it storing of the data so that someone else can use the data later for a non-law enforcement type purpose? Would we have a problem with the system if it was incapable of storing the data?

      Actually it seems to me that having enough scanners around would make your case 2 approach case 3. They know all your movements (everyone's) and make a database of everyone's movements. If the end result is the same, only the method different why would you consider one to be a violation of your privacy and the other not?

    • by rabbit994 (686936)

      I think it's automation and efficiency. Just like LE used to follow people around all the time watching where they went and such. Thing about that though is it's time consuming and if you were watching for it, you could start to detect it. Now they can attach GPS to your car and now it will just call in where it is at all times. It makes decision "Should we pay someone to following around potential bad guy X?" to extremely easy. "X might be bad guy but hell, GPS is only 2000 dollars and 50 bucks a month we

    • by nabsltd (1313397)

      Having traffic plate scanners all over the place seems like an extension of case #2 where the police are checking license plates on their own... but simply using technology to speed up the process.

      No, having license plate scanners is like having tracking devices on vehicles...it means that tracking can be done with little to no effort on the part of the government.

      If the police want to task some officers to follow you 24/7, that's fine, since they have to figure out a way to do that within the budget and without disrupting their ability to support the rest of the community. Likewise, if they want to task officers to sit at corners and record license plate numbers, that's fine, too. Or, if they need

  • I heard the FAA has been tracking airplanes for years!

  • Use a Frame (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hardburlyboogerman (161244) <kwsmith41747@windstream.net> on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:41AM (#40828661) Homepage Journal

    My van has a custom built (By me) License plate frame that unless you are DIRECTLY dead on line of sight,all you see is a 1 finger salute.The Van give the bird to any cameras or scanners out there.

    • My van has a custom built (By me) License plate frame that unless you are DIRECTLY dead on line of sight,all you see is a 1 finger salute.

      Lenticular, I assume?

    • Some states consider it obscuring the license plate, and fine you for it (you are breaking the purpose of the license plate). Watch out.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      In what state is that legal?

    • by cvtan (752695)
      If your plate frame involves putting something in front of the plate (even clear plastic), it would be illegal in NY. Not sure how many other states do this.
    • That may be against the law. A better way is to put infrared lights around the plate. It in no way obscures the plate visually to the human eye, but cameras will see a big bright mess.
    • by romco (61131)

      I have a bike rack on the back of my car. Makes it very hard to read the plate without moving around a bit as bar that sticks up always covers at least one number. Never had a problem with cops with it.

  • I had not realized that license plate scanners had privacy. The summary does not seem to address the issue of whether the ACLU thinks that license place scanners should have privacy and don't or if they should not have privacy and do.
    Reading the summary it seems that the ACLU is not questioning the privacy of license plate scanners, but is instead questioning the impact of license plate scanners on privacy. That is a very different question.
  • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:42AM (#40828699)

    I had a friend who got a $300 fine for driving with expired registration in the mail, because a police car flagged his car (Flagged when he was driving to the DMV to renew it), then months later they mailed him the fine, because the city needed some extra revenue. The same thing with traffic camera. I am OK with them monitoring the road, but if you are going to fine someone it should be done in real time. A parking ticket, when you get back to your car, you know you made a mistake. You run a red light, then you see Blue (or Red in NY) blinking behind you, you know what you did. These Delayed fines, are not helpful in solving bad behaviors, because too much time has gone by. Chances are the person doesn't even remember the act.
    We have all made mistakes, and not get caught.
    I have Ran Red Lights, not out of malice or being in a rush, but my mind was focusing on the car in front of me, or the guy tailgating me from behind, or just a brain fart of thinking Red is Go and Green is stop. (Red and Green are opposite colors and if you see the lights out of your direct vision, they can seem the same color.)

    I have missed the Do not turn on Red Signs (as they place them where you can't read the sign if you are stopped at a red light.)

    It is part of a bigger problem of Government thinking it is OK, to make revenue off of Fines, Then working hard to try to catch people breaking them.

    Lets put the Traffic Lights upside down, so we can flag all the color blind people (or sideways like in Rochester, NY). Or lets make all the stop signs Green Circles. The heck with safety, we just need to bring in revenue.

    • You make a point that some people seem to have missed, so I will restate it. The official purpose of fines for traffic violations (and violations of other laws) is to discourage this behavior. If the gap between the behavior that the fine is intended to discourage and the fine being levied is too large, it will have no impact on the behavior because the person will not connect the punishment with the behavior.
    • by OverlordQ (264228)

      Sounds like you shouldn't be driving then.

      (Red and Green are opposite colors and if you see the lights out of your direct vision, they can seem the same color.)

      Why would it be out of your direct vision? Lights are at such a small minute of arc out of your normal sight line, if you can't tell what color it is, you cannot operate a vehicle safely.

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Why would it be out of your direct vision? Lights are at such a small minute of arc out of your normal sight line, if you can't tell what color it is, you cannot operate a vehicle safely.

        People can be red-green colour blind and operate a vehicle just fine. The problem is, when places start getting their asses up in the air and don't conform to one of two standards of hanging street lights. And there have been a couple of places that have been sued into the dirt for this, there *are* proper ways to hang lights, because if you don't you're going to cause an accident for those that do have this disability.

  • by dryriver (1010635) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:43AM (#40828719)
    These people won't rest until every phone can be tapped, every email recorded in a forever-database, every face recognized from 500 feet away by nextgen CCTV cameras, every car's whereabouts tracked via RFID or license plate readers... You get the idea. ----- For the people in power, all this surveillance and more is how the future "should look like". ------ They don't like the idea of peopel having some privacy. They don't like the idea of people being free, or having some secrets. That's not how the future THEY WANT looks like. ------ 10 - 20 years from, every little bit of liberty and privacy we take for granted may be gone, forever. Every step you take will be recorded. Every statement you utter also. Every phone conversation you have with someone. Every place you browse on the web. Every channel you watch on your TV. ------ These people cannot live with the idea of a FREE AND FAIR FUTURE for mankind. They are psychologically programmed to feel a need to watch everyone, all the time, and record everything for future evaluation. ------ Goodbye, old & free world. It was nice to experience you, even if it didn't last very long... --------
  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:45AM (#40828745)

    ... in the modern era. What about GEO IP location, or identifying people by their IP address + browsing history (everytime you visit a website, multiple websites are tracking you).

    Buzzwords like: Ad Serving, Traffic Analytics, Content Customization, are just euphamisms for identifying end users, their interests, spending habits, etc.

    The below company has blizzard entertainment and others as a clients, you can bet they are using it to identify where their users live, what their income levels are, etc. It's trivial to identify people once you have enough information. Especially isnce IP addresses often give away a persons physical location.

    http://www.maxmind.com/app/ip-location [maxmind.com]

    No one has the resources to deal with it, it's like piracy you can't stop it even if you'd want to and big business has an interest in furthering its criminality and criminalizing anything that gets in its way.

    • by TheSpoom (715771)

      IP addresses do not usually give away direct locations; they most often give away the location of the ISP. Maybe if you're working at a place that has their own static IP or block, but then you're potentially one of hundreds or thousands.

      I'm much less concerned with IP geolocation than automated tracking of license plates for this reason. A more comparable internet analogy (since we're already talking about cars) would be if police installed tracking software on the major routers of the internet backbone

      • by scorp1us (235526)

        Research has been done such that if you know the layout, of the network you can create a good idea of where geographically an IP is based on its ping time from nearest teleco router.

  • Doomed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sloppy (14984) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:51AM (#40828841) Homepage Journal

    If we look at things optimistically, you may successfully persuade police departments and other government agencies to ignore this publicly visible data.

    But regardless of whether you succeed at that or not, if you concentrate on the scanning tech rather than the visible plate, then you have a 0% chance of addressing the privacy concerns. Even if you stop government from looking at the plates, what about the other 99% of the population who is able to see the plates?

    This reminds me of situations where people send plaintext emails, find out the one of the dozens or hundreds of parties who is able to read those emails (government) happens to actually be doing it, and then say that making government stop doing that, will solve the problem. *facepalm*

    Either become ok with your license plate being a cookie, or lobby to end license plates (and that, I admit, is a very hard position to take). There is no middle solution, and approaches that involve putting scanning genies back into bottles, are stupid on the face of it and 100% guaranteed to not work -- and even that is assuming you can get government to do what you want.

  • If the government is using our money to build these systems, they should make the data available publicly, in real time. While I'd much rather they didn't collect it at all, knowing where the police cruisers are at all times would be some small compensation.
    • Rudely replying to my own post.

      We don't even need to rely on the government database. Web cams in private cars feeding data to REST service at an aggregating website, maybe with a Raspberry Pi onboard to do some preprocessing....

      Excuse me, I have some hacking to do.

  • by BMOC (2478408) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @11:09AM (#40829071)
    But they have likely saved me a few traffic stops, to say the least. My Truck hasn't had up-to-date registration stickers on the plates in nearly a year, and I haven't been pulled over once. I paid registration, but CA DMV simply sent the stickers to the wrong address and I decided it wasn't worth my time to correct their mistake. Mind you, I've had a lot of cops suddenly pull up behind me, only to lose interest and change lanes/move away about 30-60 seconds later. So.... yeah, an invasion of privacy is likely, but it does improve police work.
  • If Scalia can get past the four-letter-words while convincing his fellow Justices that this is clearly unConstitutional.

    But our goverment is so willing to trample the Constitution just because they have the technology to do so. This is a fight worth fighting. And others as well.

  • by C0L0PH0N (613595) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @11:18AM (#40829167)
    The real threat, that the ACLU knows very clearly, is that the clearest path to government oppression of its citizens is to follow the path of China and other totalitarian regimes, and put together a massive dossier on every citizen. Then, anytime the government wants to crack down on a citizen, it has all the information it needs to put the citizen away. As any police officer will tell you, with over 5,000 federal laws, and countless local state and municipal laws, every citizen breaks laws without even knowing it, and if they follow you in a cruiser, then eventually can legally pull you over. What protects us is that most miniscule violations are not on the books. But if the government can collect 100% of all the information technology increasingly permits, they will begin to get 100% information. This will not harm you until the government decides to focus its laser power on YOU. There is little in this world as powerful as government, which can bring down the powerful, the wealthy, even the lawmakers. The ACLU has this one right - our government needs to be limited in the information it gathers on us.
  • by wealthychef (584778) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @11:18AM (#40829169)
    Rather than focus on preventing government from spying on us and collecting information on us, which is futile, we need to focus on collecting information about our government and the actions of elected officials and making it transparent and easy to access for all citizens. The problem is that there is an inequality in the available information and that leads to too much government power. I seriously think our congressmen should be filmed 24/7 and all their motions made public, perhaps 1 year later to avoid the threat of assassination.
  • ... and I'll say it again.

    People do *NOT* have any natural right to anonymity when they are in any sort of public place. I do not say this because I think privacy or anonymity is unimportant, but it's the furthest thing from any sort of natural right when a person makes a deliberate choice to be in a place where there are other people.

    The *ONLY* assurance that one might have of not being identified whenever they are in public is whatever sense of assurance that they possess that people who might have

    • by hyades1 (1149581)

      So I guess you're fine with "up-skirt" photos, as long as the perpetrator gets the shot on an escalator or something like that, so he could claim the view was there for anyone who looked.

      This issue isn't as simple as you claim, as anybody with even a modicum of common sense understands.

      • by mark-t (151149)

        Anybody with a modicum of sense knows that deliberately trying to peek at what somebody has underneath their clothes is both immature and indecent.

        There is a world of difference between what a person has made some reasonable effort to keep private by wearing clothing, and a license plate, which is *SUPPOSED* to be plainly visible whenever the vehicle is in any public place. There's absolutely nothing that a license plate scanner does that could not be done if a police officer simply personally saw and r

    • The courts have been consistently ruling in favor of "assumed" privacy. So, if technology is developed by law enforcement to see, say heat emanating from the walls of your house consistent with a marijuana grow lab, they can't use that info to bust in the door. If tech is developed that allows citizens to be wholesale tracked door-to-door, it'll probably be challenged and ruled out.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      People do *NOT* have any natural right to anonymity when they are in any sort of public place.

      Correct, but the people do have the right to demand that the government refrain from tracking them. Remember who the sovereign is.

  • I'd think some enterprising vendor would collect license plat location data and sell it to insurance companies. They have an insatiable appetite for rate-rising data.
  • Challenging the rights of our government to protect us. I guess they hate Freedom...

  • Don't the cell phone companies already have this type of data (but at an individual level, not just tied to your car). What do they do with the data?

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.

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