Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Government United States Technology

ACLU Study Says Police Cameras Create Database of Our Movements 154

Posted by samzenpus
from the somebody's-watching-me dept.
puddingebola writes "The ACLU has published a study saying the widespread use of police and traffic cameras has made it possible to track individual's movements, even across multiple jurisdictions. From the article, 'While the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that a judge's approval is needed to use GPS to track a car, networks of plate scanners allow police effectively to track a driver's location, sometimes several times every day, with few legal restrictions. The ACLU says the scanners are assembling a "single, high-resolution image of our lives." "There's just a fundamental question of whether we're going to live in a society where these dragnet surveillance systems become routine," said Catherine Crump, a staff attorney with the organization. The group is proposing that police departments immediately delete any records of cars not linked to any crime.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

ACLU Study Says Police Cameras Create Database of Our Movements

Comments Filter:
  • Well, yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:12AM (#44316295)

    This is the backstory that hasn't been covered. It's not about the NSA or Google or Microsoft.

    It's about Moore's Law and optical fiber and storage densities and the Internet.

    Soon it will be about robotics and AI.

    • Re:Well, yeah (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @12:45PM (#44318959)

      "This is the backstory that hasn't been covered."

      In this state it is illegal for police to look up your license plate unless they have at least "reasonable suspicion" that there has been either a crime (or traffic violation). They have to record their reason(s) for looking up information in the police database system.

      That is not to say they never do it improperly. But when they have been caught, they were not just given a slap on the wrist. One cop a few years back was caught using the police data system to look up information on his girlfriend. He is no longer a policeman. (Not the only such case, either.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:16AM (#44316305)

    "There's just a fundamental question of whether we're going to live in a society where these dragnet surveillance systems become routine," said Catherine Crump

    The answer is yes, we will, because not enough people care. Just as many people in the USA are in favor of these programs to "keep us safe from the omg terrorists!" as oppose them, according to many polls.

    Hell the media hasn't even been talking about the issues, they've been playing up the celeb angle.

    Our society is trending towards a total surveillance state, and people don't care enough to do anything about it. They'll keep voting for the same two parties.

    • by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:55AM (#44316541)

      "There's just a fundamental question of whether we're going to live in a society where these dragnet surveillance systems become routine," said Catherine Crump

      The answer is yes, we will, because not enough people care. Just as many people in the USA are in favor of these programs to "keep us safe from the omg terrorists!" as oppose them, according to many polls.

      Hell the media hasn't even been talking about the issues, they've been playing up the celeb angle.

      Our society is trending towards a total surveillance state, and people don't care enough to do anything about it. They'll keep voting for the same two parties.

      We aren't merely surveilled, however, we're self-surveilling. In addition to government cameras everywhere, people put up webcams, buy into Google Street View, post their entire lives on Facebook, etc., etc., etc.

      This isn't entirely a bad thing. Not all of the Boston Bombing images came from government cameras, for example. Enough people get enough benefit from "Fishbowl Society" that I don't think it likely that we'll get that genie back in the bottle.

      But if we can't turn back to more private times, we need to at least establish some acceptable rules for what we have. Asymmetric intelligence (a la NSA) is a threat to liberty. Basic human dignity requires that we be circumspect about what we share. And general data, such as traffic cams and telephone records should have very strict rules about both access and retention. You shouldn't be able to simply march in, wave a flag with an eagle on it saying "National Security" and be able to plunder at will.

      • by bondsbw (888959) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @09:19AM (#44316703)

        You shouldn't be able to simply march in, wave a flag with an eagle on it saying "National Security" and be able to plunder at will.

        There was a time when the 9th Amendment to the US Constitution meant something... such as the ability to simply say "No" to the federal government.

        • Odd choice. I'd suggest the fourth and fifth. And third, but mainly because the poor guy never gets to do anything these days.
          • by operagost (62405)
            Here's one [reason.com]:

            At 10:45 a.m. defendant Officer Christopher Worley (HPD) contacted plaintiff Anthony Mitchell via his telephone. Worley told plaintiff that police needed to occupy his home in order to gain a "tactical advantage" against the occupant of the neighboring house. Anthony Mitchell told the officer that he did not want to become involved and that he did not want police to enter his residence. Although Worley continued to insist that plaintiff should leave his residence, plaintiff clearly explained tha

        • by argStyopa (232550) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:56AM (#44318405) Journal

          That ended when politicians recognized that building a giant nanny state would require more and more federal control, and about half the US demographic agrees that's the goal of federal government.

          Madison nailed it:
          "It has been said, by way of objection to a bill of rights....that in the Federal Government they are unnecessary, because the powers are enumerated, and it follows, that all that are not granted by the constitution are retained; that the constitution is a bill of powers, the great residuum being the rights of the people; and, therefore, a bill of rights cannot be so necessary as if the residuum was thrown into the hands of the Government. I admit that these arguments are not entirely without foundation, but they are not as conclusive to the extent it has been proposed. It is true the powers of the general government are circumscribed; they are directed to particular objects; but even if government keeps within those limits, it has certain discretionary powers with respect to the means, which may admit of abuse. "

          • by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @01:24PM (#44319451)

            That ended when politicians recognized that building a giant nanny state would require more and more federal control, and about half the US demographic agrees that's the goal of federal government.

            Duckspeak Fail.

            A "Nanny State" is one that limits your freedom "for your own good". A Police State is one that limits your freedom for its own good.

            Yes, I know that we're supposed to be submitting to this whole deal "because it keeps us safe from the big bad evil terrorists".

            But consider who one of the the biggest proponents of Prism is: Dick Cheney. If he's your ideal of a Nanny, you're kinkier than most of us, I think.

            • by Zordak (123132)

              But consider who one of the the biggest proponents of Prism is: Dick Cheney. If he's your ideal of a Nanny, you're kinkier than most of us, I think.

              Umm... 2004 called and all that. Dick Cheney is no longer any part of the "state." He might daydream about being Supreme Dictator, but then the nurse has to feed him his porridge, and cold reality hits like a barrel of bricks. Sure, he called Snowden a terrorist or something along those lines, but that's just because nobody has been paying attention to him lately and he's lonely. The name you're looking for in 2013 is "Barack Obama." He's the one whose IRS is harassing political opponents today and whose NS

      • We aren't merely surveilled, however, we're self-surveilling.

        That's different. I have several security cameras installed at my house. If you even drive into my cul-de-sac, I have a photo of you and your car. But I don't have any ability to tie either to your identity. I have no access to the license plate database, or any facial recognition database. Of course, if you ACTUALLY COMMIT A CRIME, I can turn the photo over to the police and they can run the DB check. But for normal non-criminals, my cameras do no violate their privacy in any meaningful way.

      • by cusco (717999) <brian.bixbyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday July 18, 2013 @01:23PM (#44319431)
        Here in Seattle the traffic cameras are available for anyone to look at on the Dept. of Transportation web site, to check traffic. One day my wife and my niece were going to the mall, and out of curiosity I decided to look at the intervening traffic cams. Because of the timing of the stoplights I was able to see them on 4 of the 6 cameras between home and the mall. That was seven or eight years ago, there are a lot more cameras available to look at now.
    • You forgot to say sheeple. Seriously, where's the evidence that "the media hasn't been talking about the issues"? Pretty sure that is most certainly not the case.
    • the system is rigged. no matter which of the 'two parties' you vote for, our rights continue to erode.

      its not about the parties; its the system, overall. no outsider is allowed in and only a true outside with strong morals will be able to overturn this surveillance push.

      people are rioting over the florida case; but no one riots over their rights being destroyed. its all in how you present it to the masses; and since the media is mostly controlled (indirectly) by the power brokers, they won't report on th

    • by ak3ldama (554026)
      Everyone that cares should put an empty box (with holes on two sides) in your yard, near the sidewalk, that says "Police Movement Recorder" and see what happens.
    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Follow the money friend, the reason why the MSM blather on about which Kardashian gave a BJ this week is because they are ALL owned by the same handful of corps who ALSO have ties to the military industrial complex and of course have their own lobbyists in DC, no way they are gonna bite the hand that feeds.

      But I would argue that its NOT that people don't care, its that the people have realized all they are doing is wasting their breath, the MSM won't cover it and the government just ignores them so they kno

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Scan the plate to make sure its not hot listed, then delete the info you creeper

  • Turn the tables... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:17AM (#44316319)

    Create network of private cameras and open source distributed back end. Collect and record all the data, make it available for anyone, and add OpenStreetMap style metadata editing. Then users can flag vehicles of interest, like those owned by Law Enforcement, politicians, lawyers. If dragnets are really constitutional, then nobody should mind, right?

    • by spacepimp (664856) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:29AM (#44316391) Homepage
      ... Then get flagged as a terror threat for monitoring police activity and obstructing justice. They may want to question you about a few of your most recent Google searches about "Open Source Software" as well, just to kick you in the nuts a little harder.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Thomas Jefferson: "Tyranny is defined as that which is legal for the government but illegal for the citizenry"

      • Well, then we'll just have to wait for a hacker who gets into a system and uploads massive lists of plate IDs and their location information to Wikileaks. It'll happen sooner or later. Nothing stays secret forever, which is a good reason not to keep massive databases of them. And once a few Congressmen have their vehicles tagged in places they don't want to admit being, the laws will get changed.
  • by Nyder (754090) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:17AM (#44316321) Journal

    While the capabilities to do this are there, can the local police stations afford it? Or would they outsource it to the NSA (who in turn outsources to a private contractor) so they can claim they are not doing it?

    If this is the future we are looking forward to, maybe it is a time for transparency in the local governments & police. Let's face it, while this has some good uses, the ability to easily abuse it is way too high. And it will be abused because that is what we humans do when we have no oversight (sometimes even when we do).

    If we want to still have freedoms in America, we have to change the way our government works. We have to reign in the abuse of power that happens at all levels. Give no one total power and make sure there is always oversight.

    • by cold fjord (826450) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:28AM (#44316383)

      The federal government has been making grants to local police departments that allow them buy the equipment. There is no way the NSA is going to get involved, they are all about signals intelligence, not the Department of Motor Vehicles.

      It should be much easier to get the city or county council, or maybe the state, to regulate this than trying to do it through the federal government. After all, police departments in the US are local jurisdiction except for the relatively small state police agencies.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:41AM (#44316447)

      It's getting cheaper all the time. It's exactly what's going on in London, with the massive array of CCTV cameras there, but they quite refuse to share the data with citizens for tracking personal or non-political crime (such as personal assault or stolen luggage).

      Been there, done that, got tracked and questioned about my presence at an anarchist rally. But the same network was left unused for tracking who stole my luggage or smashed my car windows.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hey, I have an idea...why don't all of the luddites come out of the woodwork on Slashdot, the direct implication of their ideas which can only be that government must be restricted from using certain technology because it "could be abused". I have news for you: technology will ALWAYS make the job of government -- or anyone who uses it -- easier. That is why it is the LAW, not the technology, that is paramount. If you still want to believe the government is going to ignore the law and "do what it wants to do

      • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @09:11AM (#44316631)

        1. NSA's mission, to the exclusion of nearly everything else, is FOREIGN signals intelligence. I know you think they're doing a lot of other things, but they're not. They would never get involved in anything like this. (I realize you may have been making the comment tongue-in-cheek.) If ANY federal agency would be involved, it would be the FBI -- and they are, in fact, because they're the ones who keep the national databases that many state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies use.

        But isn't the NSA sucking up data on *every* phone call (whether its an overseas call or purely domestic) "just in case" it involves a foreigner? Why wouldn't they also want to suck up data from every police camera "just in case" it tracks a car driven by a foreigner? Even terrorists know that phones can be tracked, so if the NSA really is tracking terrorists why wouldn't they want to be able to track them by license plate even if they leave the phone at home?

      • by oxdas (2447598)

        According to the FISA ruling released by Snowden, the NSA is allowed to turn over any information on domestic crimes that it discovers "inadvertenly" to other agencies (what constitutes suspicion of a crime?). The NSA might not be charged to spy domestically, but the FISA court has ruled that it is, essentially, not prohibited from doing so. Given that if they monitor all communications within 2 or 3 "hops" from a suspected terrorist, they can reach a sigificant percentage of the domestic population.

  • by therealkevinkretz (1585825) * on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:20AM (#44316333)

    A couple of years ago, I was driving behind a cop who initially appeared interested in the car ahead of him. That car prepared to make a left turn, and the officer signaled the same, and after I passed them (at about 35-40MPH) within two or three seconds he disengaged from the other guy and came after me, lights flashing.

    Turns out my registration had expired, which is what he told me he pulled me over for. No way possible he could have visually read my plate and run it in the time he had - so I wondered if there were license-plate reading cameras in some LEO vehicles, then dismissed the idea as silly. Now it doesn't sound so far-fetched. Anyone have any direct knowledge of systems like this?

    • by P-niiice (1703362) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:23AM (#44316357)
      They exist, and can scan 10000 plates an hour, if I remember correctly. The police here in GA sometimes sit by the road at highway interchanges and scan plates, and pull over car with expired plates. Where you used to get away with renewing your registration at the end of the month, you can now be caught one day after your birthday.
      • by plover (150551) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @09:18AM (#44316699) Homepage Journal

        They were even featured on one of those "reality" TV shows a few months back, as I vaguely recall. A private towing company installed it in a vehicle, loaded up a database of deadbeats, then trolled public parking lots and shopping center lots looking for cars to repossess. When they found one, they quickly dragged it away and claimed a bounty.

        • by cayenne8 (626475)

          They were even featured on one of those "reality" TV shows a few months back, as I vaguely recall. A private towing company installed it in a vehicle, loaded up a database of deadbeats, then trolled public parking lots and shopping center lots looking for cars to repossess. When they found one, they quickly dragged it away and claimed a bounty.

          Hmm...I guess I'll start backing into my parking spots at the mall and all...just to make it more difficult for them to read my plates.

          :)

          • by plover (150551)

            Or you could hang one of those license plate covers like they do at the Japanese "love hotels".

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Where you used to get away with renewing your registration at the end of the month, you can now be caught one day after your birthday.

        This happened to me about 2 years ago. I had already renewed on line, but did so the day before the expiration, so the tags were in the mail. Since my birthday is in the middle of the month (and the sticker, the visual indicator of it being expired, on the tag is month specific) I figured nobody would be the wiser.

        My car is usually parked in my driveway, but a quirk of fate had me park it on the public road right in front of my house. The next morning I came out and found a ticket on my windshield for an

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        This is done in routinely Austin and San Antonio to find cars that are not on any insurance database. In San Antonio, if the car isn't insured, the vehicle is pulled over, driver left on the roadside, and the car impounded on the spot.

    • by cold fjord (826450) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:42AM (#44316449)

      There are scanners that can be mounted on the police cars. The ones I know of are about the size of a box of breakfast cereal. From what I've seen there are at least 2 of them mounted, it might be as many as 4. They are mounted on the trunk and possibly hood, pointing at about a 45 degree angle from the direction of travel to the left and right, so that is 2 rear left and right, and possibly 2 front left and right. They can scan while they are driving and check thousands of plates per hour. I expect that they keep the police cars with those scanners moving all day if they can to scan as much as they can.

      This video is informative.
      Police License Plate Scanner [youtube.com]

    • by anmre (2956771) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @09:12AM (#44316645)
      My father-in-law recently went on a police "ride-a-long" (we live in Virginia Beach, VA). He said that in between responding to domestic disturbance calls, the majority of the time was spent driving around scanning license plates. Prior to that, he didn't even know the police had the capability, much less the desire to track innocent folks. One particular incident occured that night when they pulled up to a vehicle that came up stolen. The cop pulled the guy over, handcuffed him and put him in the back seat. The guy was upset, and for good reason, which would only become clear some minutes later. He was the owner of the car which had previously been reported as stolen, but had not been cleared in the database after it was returned to him.
      • by nschubach (922175)

        Really, it's a matter of being guilty until proven innocent. It doesn't matter if you have the registration paperwork in your car and you are coming from the BMV. If you don't have that registration on the car... guilty. It's assuming that everyone out there is trying to skirt the law and assuming they are all guilty so "scan them all". It's not about waiting until someone does something bad enough to warrant pulling them over. They can be the safest driver in the world, but holy hell... if they forget

        • by vux984 (928602)

          I'm confused.

          Scanning plates doesn't tell you if the drivers license registration is expired? Because scanning plates doesn't tell you who the driver is.

          Scanning plates tells you the vehicles registration is expired; which is implicitly tied to the insurance. If the vehicles registration is expired, the vehicle is uninsured, and it is illegal to operate. If its involved in an accident while uninsured that causes all kinds of grief.

          I have no issue with the police promptly and pro-actively removing obviously

          • by cusco (717999)
            In some states the vehicle registration expires on the owner's birthday, I suspect that's what they're talking about. I've heard about people locally being pulled over because the vehicle owner's drivers license had been revoked for DWI, and the cop checks to make sure that the owner is not the driver.
          • I'm confused.

            Scanning plates doesn't tell you if the drivers license registration is expired?

            Plate is registered to an owner. Owner has driver's license. Driver's license has expiration date. License is expired? Pull the vehicle over. You'll either catch the owner driving with an expired license, another driver driving with an expired license, or a "Routine check, thank you for your time". What part aren't you getting?

            • by vux984 (928602)

              Plate is registered to an owner. Owner has driver's license. Driver's license has expiration date. License is expired? Pull the vehicle over. You'll either catch the owner driving with an expired license, another driver driving with an expired license, or a "Routine check, thank you for your time". What part aren't you getting?

              The part where they leapt from owner has an expired drivrers license to probable cause to pull over the vehicle.

              How many seniors are they hassling where the blind old guy stops drivin

              • Way to take edge cases and claim that they're normal. If it turns out it isn't the disqualified driver at the wheel, do they shoot him anyway?

                Don't be such a drama queen.

                • by vux984 (928602)

                  Way to take edge cases and claim that they're normal.

                  People driving other peoples cars is not an "edge case".

                  • Yes it is, when you're putting that on top of the small number of cars where the registration has expired and/or the main driver has been disqualified. You know how probabilities work, don't you?

                    People do ignore bans. It's enough to justify checking it out.

      • by isorox (205688)

        My father-in-law recently went on a police "ride-a-long" (we live in Virginia Beach, VA). He said that in between responding to domestic disturbance calls, the majority of the time was spent driving around scanning license plates. Prior to that, he didn't even know the police had the capability, much less the desire to track innocent folks. One particular incident occured that night when they pulled up to a vehicle that came up stolen. The cop pulled the guy over, handcuffed him and put him in the back seat. The guy was upset, and for good reason, which would only become clear some minutes later. He was the owner of the car which had previously been reported as stolen, but had not been cleared in the database after it was returned to him.

        The problem here isn't the police pulling over the reported stolen car, it's their assumption of guilt. Handcuffing someone before you even talk to them? This just doesn't seem to happen in the UK. When I was young I was pulled over several times, once on the motorway, I'd been doing 87 (speed limit was 70), and I was talking on a mobile.

        They pulled me over, walked up to the car, asked me to get out of the vehicle on the passenger side and come back to to their car, where they gave me a ticket (not a speedi

    • by vux984 (928602)

      Yeah the tech exists and can help find stolen cars and other flagged vehicles, but are you sure there isn't a simpler explanation? Around here for example, their are stickers on your plate that say when it expires.

      It doesn't take a lot of time look at the plate, and see that its expired.

      The stickers are even color coded so if its November 2013, and you've got an orange sticker indicating October 2013 they don't even have to read the date. All they have to do is see 'orange'.

      • I like to think that, if I had expiration stickers on my plates, I'd have thought of that. But no, I don't.

        • by vux984 (928602)

          I like to think that, if I had expiration stickers on my plates, I'd have thought of that. But no, I don't.

          I figured I was going to get either the response above, or "Doh!".

          cheers!

    • Not only do they exist, they're kind of interesting tech. The camera has a *visible* light filter, right next to it is a high power IR light. That keeps them able to read plates at night, with out getting blinded by headlights. The system ties into the in car laptop. When it hits, if their are other windows in the foreground, it beeps a couple times, then if no action is taken, pushes itself to the top. Around here, they use cellular internet, to continuosly upload all the data to computers at the station.

  • 1984 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by randomErr (172078) <ervin DOT kosch AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:27AM (#44316377) Homepage Journal

    Right wing nut jobs have been screaming about this for decades. Municipalities keep putting these cameras and phone taps in place in the name of safety, both personal and the unnamed war (crime, terrorism, even poverty.) Unfortunately these measures don't stop crime. At best they help find the person(s) who did the deed a little faster.

    If you say we need more cameras, need I remind you of the Boston bombing. It was a low tech pressure cooker bomb in backpack that easily got past heighten surveillance at a marathon. How many days did it take to find the people who did it? It was people that found them, not cameras.

    Technology in the wrong hands leads to Orwell's nightmare and the direction of the Nazi nationalism before World War II. Good governments can handle this kind of power. But we've seen major abuses of this kind of power from Bush senior through to Obama's drones in our government. Governments, especial large ones, easily get corrupted or hung up on political correctness so they keep getting re-elected. Stop watching every move I make if I'm not doing anything wrong.

    I'll end this rant with two quotes/cliches:

    * With great power comes great responsibility
    * Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean you're wrong.

    • Re:1984 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khallow (566160) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:35AM (#44316425)

      Good governments can handle this kind of power.

      Even if that were true, good governments don't stay good. This is also the sort of power that can make a government go bad. It gives them too much power over the citizenry.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by the_fat_kid (1094399)

        and good governments don't enshrine and worship the likes of Ronald Reagan.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          good governments don't enshrine and worship anyone.

      • Governments seem good so long as they do what you think they should be doing. This is just might makes right in a democracy.

        Many European governments outlaw "hate speech", not learning the lessons of history, but repeating the mistakes. It doesn't matter how many cheer...for now. It's wrong. Why? Go ask gramma before she dies.

    • Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you.
    • Right wing nut jobs have been screaming about this for decades.

      So they've been vindicated?

      Unfortunately these measures don't stop crime.

      To do that you need to either harden the target in some fashion, or stop them at the "precrime" stage. I'm not sure we want to go in the direction of "precime" in law enforcement for ordinary crime, for various interpretations of "precrime."

      At best they help find the person(s) who did the deed a little faster.

      Still useful.

    • by T.E.D. (34228)

      , need I remind you of the Boston bombing. It was a low tech pressure cooker bomb in backpack that easily got past heighten surveillance at a marathon. How many days did it take to find the people who did it? It was people that found them, not cameras.

      The problem with this logic is that we never would have known who we were looking for in the first place without all the cameras. In the event they were able to capture one of the perps planting one of the devices (and its subsequent explosion), and they were also able to place him interacting with another person with a similar backpack. Without the ubiquitous cameras, the FBI would probably still be running down leads at sporting-goods stores today.

    • Re:1984 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Archangel Michael (180766) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @10:07AM (#44317163) Journal

      Actually, the "right wing" nut jobs I know, are paranoid as the OWS crowd is. Pointing to the Right Wingers is probably not a good idea except in your twisted view of the world.

      And being an accused "Right wing" nut job myself, I can assure you, that I have HUGE problems with this kind of monitoring of citizens. The problem, as I see it, isn't the "Right wing nutjobs" or the "leftwing nut jobs" it is those people in the middle that want a functioning society with the least amount of hassles who see expired license plates and pulling people for stolen (but returned) cars as acceptable exchange of liberty for security.

      The problem is, the Leftwing and Righwing Nut jobs won't get together on subjects like this until it is too late. So, in summary, stop targeting people that might actually be on your side with broad strokes of the paint brush. I'll join you in protesting the police state we're in.

      As a side note, did you protest against the shutting down of Boston via martial law during the man hunt for single wounded man? Or how about Big Bear Lake when the cop went on a shooting spree? We live in a police state, but that is what people want.They want big government to take care of them.

    • Got a problem with drones? Just shoot 'em down: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/18/us-usa-colorado-drones-idUSBRE96H02120130718 [reuters.com]
  • by beamin (23709) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:38AM (#44316433)

    I manage IT for a small city whose police department has two patrol vehicles equipped with LPRs. Officers download an updated hotlist of expired and stolen plates daily to the PCs in those cars and have the LPR software running while they patrol and answer calls. Our official policy is to let data expire from the PCs after 40 days. While the software has the optional capability to centrally gather reads and archive them, we've never bothered to implement it. The only inquiry we've had regarding plate reads in the last three years was from the NYCLU, wanting to know our data handling policies.

    That's not to say that there isn't a very creepy Orwellian aspect to the proliferation of this technology. With enough zealots in the right places, this stuff is odious.

    • by OzPeter (195038)

      Our official policy is to let data expire from the PCs after 40 days. While the software has the optional capability to centrally gather reads and archive them, we've never bothered to implement it.

      There was a story on CNN this morning about LPRs. What was scary was that the guy who was the focus of the story had requested records pertaining to his car and this amounted to dozens of photos going back 12 or 18 months. It also included at least one photo of him and his kids getting out of his car while it was parked in his driveway.

      Personally I think that there is no reason to retain *any* record for a car that is not currently the subject of an infraction. That you delete records after 40 days is co

      • by nschubach (922175)

        IMHO, 40 days is too long. The data should exist for as long as the investigation occurs. With plate scanners, that should be measured in seconds. While I disagree with plate scanning in general (people should be held to their driving habits, not their registration practices...) Holding on to that data for longer is just assuming that everyone is guilty of something and until you out what, you retain that data.

        • by phorm (591458)

          A 1-2 day limit might be reasonable. Active situations don't get broadcast instantly. Similar to storefront cameras, let's say that a bank is robbed and the getaway vehicle ID'ed. You have a window of 24-48 hours to check local surveillance, possibly identify the getaway vehicle, and then check against plate scans to see if you can figure out where the suspects went.
          Ditto for kidnappings, child disappearances, etc. It might not be known right away that there's an issue, but being able to go back within a wi

          • by nschubach (922175)

            Wouldn't it be acceptable to put these plate scanners around high profile locations like banks/schools/etc. so that when something is reported, the cameras can then dump that data to a local alert system that places all patrol cars on alert? The problem I see is getting the hands of the authorities off those cameras unless that data is needed. Perhaps the banks and schools could retain the rights to that data until they voluntarily release it to the authorities to deal with. It would require standardizat

  • by ciderbrew (1860166) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:42AM (#44316451)
    They've been doing this for ages here in the UK.
    When something happens the police also go into all the shops in the area and take their video data too. Also in central London we have the Congestion Charge. A camera based entry exit system. The people of England have paid for surveillance under the guise of easing congestion/pollution (and catching peodfiles should that ball'o'crap get the opportunity to manifest).

    CCTV hasn't stop any crime. but it does give awful low res images for news teams to air.
  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @08:48AM (#44316495)
    Nope, not this time. I cannot find any room for humor as I read this and put together the sum total of all we have learned so far--moreover mostly recently--about domestic surveillance. Where will it end? Can we stop it and reverse it, or are we fucked for sure? What may come to light next? As an American I am a patriot regarding the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the founding ideals of my nation. But, at the same time, the reality we are now facing is harsh, confusing, desperate, and scary. I don't know what to think about my country anymore; our government has declared that every citizen is a criminal suspect subject to all kinds of constant surveillance, it's like they're just waiting for a slip up that gets you busted--mind your thoughts, thinking the wrong thing, or worse saying the wrong thing, could one day soon be your undoing.

    It's not our fault, but maybe we could have done more to prevent this. And so it goes...
    • by kermidge (2221646)

      "It's not our fault, but maybe we could have done more to prevent this. And so it goes..."

      That's how it happened.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "There's just a fundamental question of whether we're going to live in a society where these dragnet surveillance systems become routine,"

    Have you been asleep for the last 20 years or what?

    Someone should have listened to those 'conspiracy nutjobs' a long time ago. Instead we made fun of them and told them to get more tinfoil for their hats...

  • The UK is far worst with 1 CCTV camera for every 12 people.. take a look at this recent article http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2359825/One-CCTV-12-people-Surveillance-soars-care-homes-hospitals-schools.html [dailymail.co.uk]

    On top of that we also have ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition); facial recognition systems in some shops bars etc!

    It does make me wonder though; what would happen when someone develops some malware that affects CCTV and similar systems? I think it is only a matter of time... just look at S

    • by cusco (717999)
      Most IP cameras run a Linux kernel, almost always one that's several years out of date. Almost all of them run as root. A ridiculous percentage of them are installed with a default password of admin, 1234, 12345, root, pass, system, password, or just plain blank (really), and some of them don't allow installers to change the password.

      Just saying . . .
  • Yet another great reason to ride your bicycle!
  • A group of private individuals could do the same - and who is to say they don't already?

    Companies already use plate tracking for permitting cars into their parking lots - nothing to stop them pointing them at the street outside and recording the movements of vehicles outside their sites.

  • is in primaries and at the ballot box. And even then, we need to be far more careful about who we put in office. Most of the people we can actually count on will not come with D or R next to their name, and you can pretty well bet that they won't be incumbents in over 90% of races.

  • The problem I have with the ACLU argument is that nobody argues that this same activity (following a person around in public to see where they go) is a big problem if the cops do it manually. People are getting worried now just because cameras and computers are allowing them to perform the same kinds of surveilence much more efficiently. But the engineer in me insists that either the base activity is OK, or it isn't. If it is OK, then it ought to be OK for the police to do it as efficiently (and cheaply) as

    • The point being that manual surveillance is done purposely and usually with a warrant or as part of an investigation.

      Plate scanners are tracking everyone and are capable of building detailed pictures of your every vehicular movement.

    • by ScottCooperDotNet (929575) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @10:16AM (#44317263)

      When the police manually trail someone, they usually have a reasonable suspicion to do so. When police electronically trail everyone, regardless of even a hint of crime, that becomes a system ripe for abuse.

      In ethics, not everything is a 1 or a 0.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If I came to your house as a guest and took a blade of grass home with me, you wouldn't be upset. If I took all the grass in your lawn, one blade at a time, you'd be upset. If I put a single pebble in your garden, you won't be upset, but if I cover your house in pebbles to the roof, you'll be very upset. Quantity matters. As for police, the problem is that police investigations reveal irrelevant private information. That's something we've just got to accept if we want the police to do anything at all. Howev

      • by jc42 (318812)

        As for police, the problem is that police investigations reveal irrelevant private information. That's something we've just got to accept if we want the police to do anything at all. However, we don't have to let the police collect irrelevant private information when that isn't part of an investigation of a crime. In other words, the ratio of criminals caught to private information collected is too low.

        There's also the general problem of "false positives", which have been notoriously common in previous security-related data collection. This was especially common in the "Red Scare" investigations of the 1950s to 1980s.

        Back in the 1970s, there was an example that got a bit of coverage in the scientific press. There was a researcher (in Detroit as I recall) who had applied for lots of federal grants, and had been turned down for all of them with no explanation. Eventually, via the FOIA (Freedom Of Inf

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @10:23AM (#44317337)

    Surveillance is not the problem per se. The problem is when people (read, government officials) can actually make use of the data without oversight.

    If they needed a search warrant to do a database search of the video archives, then I would be fine with that. I would also want to see reasonable limitations on data retention by law enforcement agencies -- not to exceed the statue of limitations for felony crimes.

    As others have said, the surveillance genie is out of the bottle. I believe it's time to talk instead about putting law enforcement agencies on a very short leash with regard to how they can use information systems. They will whine and moan that it "makes it harder to to catch criminals." It is really time to push back and say, "making your job easy is less of a priority than preventing crooked cops from abusing the public trust."

  • Here is Portsmouth Virginia, the local government hired a private company to drive around the city with license plate scanners and boot any car it found where the owner was flagged for being behind on paying taxes to the city. Didn't matter if that left the owner stranded. If you didn't have the money immediately to pay your overdue taxes, better find a new way to get to work.

    In Portsmouth, pay personal property taxes or get the boot [hamptonroads.com]

  • by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @10:51AM (#44317605) Homepage Journal

    Even as governments increase their secrecy, they demand increasing ability to track and spy on their subjects.

    Virginia is a "pilot" state for the on-line identity system that is being promoted by Microsoft and will be used for both private and government transactions. This is being run and promoted by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA).

    The Cross Sector Digital Identity Initiative (CSDII), led by AAMVA is developing technology that will demonstrate the acceptance of commercial identity provider credentials by Virginia state government, including securely verifying identities online with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. The pilot plans to make this technology available for voluntary access to on-line state services over the course of the project. State governments, including Virginia, are exploring leveraging commercial identity providers for secure online access to state government websites, ostensibly "as a means to improve customer service and reduce the costs associated with online identity management". In the case of sensitive government transactions, the credential is “leveled up” to higher assurances of identity verification and security.

    Pilot partner Microsoft is providing a secure, privacy-enhancing cloud identity service, Customer Partner and Identity Manager (CPIM), and OpenID-based interoperable Windows Accounts to pilot participants. The pilot will also explore increasing the security of the Windows Account and other pilot interoperable credentials by enabling the Biometric Signature ID multifactor authentication solution, BioSig-ID. The BioSig-ID solution measures unique behavioral characteristics as the user draws a password on the computer screen, deriving an additional factor of authentication to supplement user name and password and thereby increasing account security in a user friendly fashion.

    On the association's web site is the Policy Positions [aamva.org] PDF document, which connects Real ID to PRISM. Page 15 includes:

    4. PRISM
    AAMVA supports the federal-state safety program PRISM (Performance and Registration Information Systems Management) and encourages the States to become active participants of the program. PRISM is designed to utilize the commercial vehicle registration process of the States by determining the safety fitness of the motor carrier prior to issuing license plates and by motivating the carrier to improve its safety performance either through an improvement process or the application of registration sanctions.

    What they don't tell you is that PRISM is the same system used for collecting and storing communications by the NSA. How convenient! So not only will they have all personal information about you, they will have all your communications integrated into one convenient data storage system.

  • I thought in the not-too-distant future, the most precious commodity would be potable water.

    Nope.

    The most precious thing the Rich and Powerful will brag about possesing in the years to come is real, actual, tangible privacy.
  • by jklovanc (1603149) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @03:30PM (#44320865)

    The ACLU says the scanners are assembling a "single, high-resolution image of our lives."

    The resolution of the image is how often a license plate is scanned and the location stored. It is not a high resolution scan for the following reasons;
    1. Not all police cars are scanning all the time.
    2. Not all police cars have license plate scanners.
    3. License plates are not visible/decipherable by the scanner all the time.
    At best a license plate will be scanned a couple of times a day. That is not a very hi resolution image of a life.

  • by J'raxis (248192) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @04:49PM (#44321653) Homepage

    This kind of surveillance is fortunately illegal [state.nh.us] for the police to do in New Hampshire.

Lisp Users: Due to the holiday next Monday, there will be no garbage collection.

Working...