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Privacy Electronic Frontier Foundation Transportation

"Smart Plates" Could Betray California Drivers' Privacy 262

Posted by timothy
from the martha-reeves-has-some-'splainin'-to-do dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news that a California Senate Bill would authorize the state's Department of Motor Vehicles to test a digital registration plate system patented by San Francisco-based Smart Plate Mobile on as many as 160,000 cars. An article on the proposed trial in the Modesto Bee says, in part: "The state hopes the technology will improve efficiencies in vehicle registrations and potentially save the DMV some of the $20 million spent each year in postage for renewals. Privacy advocates say the approach could leave motorists vulnerable to government surveillance by undoing a Supreme Court ruling that required authorities to obtain search warrants before using vehicle tracking devices. 'It means everyone driving in California will have their location accessible to the government at any time,' said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In 2010, the Legislature considered a similar bill supported by Smart Plate Mobile, with the noted addition of allowing for scrolling advertisements when a vehicle comes to a stop for four seconds or longer." If only it took smart plates to track you.
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"Smart Plates" Could Betray California Drivers' Privacy

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  • by Kenja (541830) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:16AM (#44318577)
    While I'm not wild about being tracked, I simply don't feel that I have an assumption of privacy while driving around on a public road.
    • by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:21AM (#44318631) Homepage Journal

      Stalking in public is illegal. You cannot follow someone around and learn about their travels in public. I'm not sure that analogy applies today.

      • by cdrudge (68377)

        Stalking in public is illegal*. You cannot follow someone around and learn about their travels in public.

        * -check local laws for what constitutes stalking. Merely following someone around and learning about their travels does not automatically constitute stalking. Being violent, abusive, harassing, or otherwise making the individual fearful of potential harm is stalking.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by shadowrat (1069614)

        Stalking in public is illegal. You cannot follow someone around and learn about their travels in public.

        George Zimmerman's defense team says you can.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:22AM (#44318647)

      lol @ liberals..
      "I voted for the benevolent dictator and all I got was this panoptic totalitarian police state."

      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        I wonder how difficult it would be to *ahem*....de-activate this tech on the plate?

        I mean, maybe the power/battery accidently gets disconnected? Maybe a rock or hammer accidentally smashes some critical part of the plate system? What if the plate accidentally passed in front of some random, activated HERF gun [hacknmod.com]...?

        • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:38AM (#44318881)

          I wonder how difficult it would be to *ahem*....de-activate this tech on the plate?

          I mean, maybe the power/battery accidently gets disconnected? Maybe a rock or hammer accidentally smashes some critical part of the plate system? What if the plate accidentally passed in front of some random, activated HERF gun [hacknmod.com]...?

          I think this plate has an LCD screen that displays your license plate number while you're driving, and public service announcements (and ads of course!) while you're parked.

          If you disable it, it will be immediately obvious.

          But my question is, do I have to buy another expensive plate when a rock (or vandal) cracks the screen, or will the state pay for it since they are the ones that decided that the electronic plates would 'save money'? They are claiming that the new plates will save money because renewals will be automatically sent to the plate rather than needing someone to mail out a sticker, but I have a hard time believing that this electronic device is cheaper than a metal license plate that can last decades with the only maintenance being putting on a new sticker every year.

          • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @12:13PM (#44319323)

            Of course you won't have to pay for it. But your vehicle registration will increase to $500/yr. Just a coincidence.

            I've always been !amused by the fact that I need to 'renew' a registration when no information has changed. Selling a car, buying a car, moving a car, all require me to update my registration, but as long as the VIN/Title and the person it is associated with aren't changing, the registration should persist.

            • Yeah, but people like move and stuff. It's more about keeping accurate voter registration info. The license part is just the impetus to keep the public coming in and registering.
            • by hawguy (1600213)

              Of course you won't have to pay for it. But your vehicle registration will increase to $500/yr. Just a coincidence.

              I've always been !amused by the fact that I need to 'renew' a registration when no information has changed. Selling a car, buying a car, moving a car, all require me to update my registration, but as long as the VIN/Title and the person it is associated with aren't changing, the registration should persist.

              In California, most of the renewal "fee" is a tax, so that's why you pay every year, because the government is hungry and needs to be fed often.

              I think the reasoning behind the sticker is to prevent a license plate from being valid forever if it's stolen (or you stop paying registration). Without automatic registration lookups, you could easily go for years without anyone noticing that you're driving around on expired plates.

              • In California, most of the renewal "fee" is a tax, so that's why you pay every year, because the government is hungry and needs to be fed often.

                Please let us not forget the $70 bi-yearly smog inspections (which become yearly if you happen to fail one). God I hate this state.

                • by hawguy (1600213)

                  In California, most of the renewal "fee" is a tax, so that's why you pay every year, because the government is hungry and needs to be fed often.

                  Please let us not forget the $70 bi-yearly smog inspections (which become yearly if you happen to fail one). God I hate this state.

                  If you're paying $70 for a smog check, you ought to shop around, my last smog cost $30 including the $8 the state charges for the certificate of compliance (though I may have gotten a discount by owning an AWD car so they couldn't do the full test on the rollers since they only had 2 wheel rollers). I don't mind the smog check if it keeps dirty cars off the road, my 10 year old car has always passed its smog checks.

                  • It may have been $50 + a retest fee, I can't recall anymore.

                    Any older car will require an 'EVAP' test, that normally adds another 7-10 bucks to the cost.

                    You also have to go to special 'test only' stations, which are both A. more expensive and B. unable to diagnose what actually caused it to fail the test.
                • Please let us not forget the $70 bi-yearly smog inspections (which become yearly if you happen to fail one). God I hate this state.

                  If you fail one, you *should* have to get it more often. The point of the emissions test is to make sure your car is running the way it should be. Around here, they won't let you renew your plates unless you've got the piece of paper saying you've passed the test at all.

                  New cars are exempted here, at least... I think it needs to be 5 years old before you need to get an e-test done. I think also that the test is annual for cars over a certain age, but I've honestly never run into that limit. It's been almost

            • I wish we would do like some other states and just register every 2-3 years to really save money on mailing out all this stuff...
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by ackthpt (218170)

        lol @ liberals..
        "I voted for the benevolent dictator and all I got was this panoptic totalitarian police state."

        It's like the Republicans put this into place, but a Democratic administration was figuring how to use it.

        Reminds me of an old political saw: The Democrats invented the Deficit, but the Republicans figured out how to use it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:22AM (#44318653)

      Just because you are in public doesn't mean your location should be known by all parties with access to a database.

      • Just because you are in public doesn't mean your location should be known by all parties with access to a database.

        I think the unreasonable part is storing of the data. I see this technology very similar to a 'speed trap', where passing cars are locally affected. Generally speaking 'speed traps' are accepted as a reasonable police practice. However, if in addition to checking speed the police also uniquely identified each vehicle and then stored the date, time, location, speed...etc, the action would be significantly more intrusive if not unlawful.

        • by ewieling (90662)
          I think the unreasonable part is the wholesale tracking of large numbers of people without cause. In the past our privacy rights were protected only because it was not feasible to track everyone. Efficient government where every department shares data with every other department (and many private companies) scares the hell out of me. I like government, it does many many critically important things. However, I do not trust the government.

          I wish someone at the NSA would pull the PRISM data for every
          • I wish someone at the NSA would pull the PRISM data for every member of congress, all federal judges, the supreme court judges, newspaper/television reporters and release the information to the public. It is just meta data, nothing important or privacy violating.

            I'm sure they have (for 'leverage'), but you'll never see it.

            This isn't new, Hoover did the exact same thing with the FBI. What's new is the technology enabling it to store information on EVERYONE vs a few random communist sympathizers and MLK.

      • by Ichijo (607641)

        License plate trackers have no way of knowing where you are, only where your car is. It's strange how people in the USA forget that cars aren't people.

        Anyway, if you don't want your car to be tracked, then stop operating deadly machinery on public roads. Should we stop tracking aircraft?

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          Anyway, if you don't want your car to be tracked, then stop operating deadly machinery on public roads. Should we stop tracking aircraft?

          Any deadly aircraft operating on public roads should certainly be tracked.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      While I'm not wild about being tracked, I simply don't feel that I have an assumption of privacy while driving around on a public road.

      It's an illusion held by the paranoid or genuinely guilty.

      But think about this ... by order of the Supreme Court the police can't keep and share tracking information, unless there's a search warrant. Nothing bars private companies putting plate scanners out there to keep track of where you go.

      • Nothing bars private companies putting plate scanners out there to keep track of where you go.

        Except for the fact the scanners have to be somewhere, and being on public property would require a permit and approval from the government. Scanners placed on private property would be legal with the landowners permission, but you would need landowners that don't care about privacy. Scanners on commercial premises, other than those operated by the business itself for its own safety, would probably drive away a high enough ratio of customers that the business would not allow the private company put any scan

        • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:49AM (#44319005) Homepage Journal

          On public property?!? Who said anything about that? Dang, haven't you ever see a billboard ?!?

          You think private enterprise couldn't do the same thing, renting a few square feet of land or roof top to place a scanner? Heck, they could put these things in billboards, perfect spot already staked out. Watch your car go by, share info, know where you frequent, when you are there, etc. You think the tracking of your web surfing habits can't be extended out from the screen into the physical environment?!?

          *facepalm*

          • digital billboards that use prisms to target personal adds to each car. You were web searching for a new pair of shoes last night, so on your commute to work, you keep seeing Nike, Zappos, and ADIDAS everywhere. It'll happen. Just give it time.
            • by ackthpt (218170)

              digital billboards that use prisms to target personal adds to each car. You were web searching for a new pair of shoes last night, so on your commute to work, you keep seeing Nike, Zappos, and ADIDAS everywhere. It'll happen. Just give it time.

              Exactly.

              If Google or Facebook can haul in billions in revenues from tracking you across the web, this is the next step and it's wide open. Someone has probably already been working on it.

              • If Google or Facebook can haul in billions in revenues from tracking you across the web, this is the next step and it's wide open. Someone has probably already been working on it.

                I believe google has been so busy working on the autonomous car for that very reason too. Inside such a vehicle, one would be a captive audience to their ad service on some level, and definitely subject to their consumer data collecting efforts.

                • by ackthpt (218170)

                  If Google or Facebook can haul in billions in revenues from tracking you across the web, this is the next step and it's wide open. Someone has probably already been working on it.

                  I believe google has been so busy working on the autonomous car for that very reason too. Inside such a vehicle, one would be a captive audience to their ad service on some level, and definitely subject to their consumer data collecting efforts.

                  "I see you are on your way to Morro Bay, why not stop at [paid advertisement] Foobie's Tofu Barbecue? Just think of those succulent cubes of soy protein, marinated in delectable sauces and grilled with fresh vegetables and served with steamed or fried rice! Google rating ****"

            • by hawguy (1600213)

              digital billboards that use prisms to target personal adds to each car. You were web searching for a new pair of shoes last night, so on your commute to work, you keep seeing Nike, Zappos, and ADIDAS everywhere. It'll happen. Just give it time.

              They already have digital billboards that can detect what radio station you're listening to and target ads based on the demographics of that station:

              http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/science-fiction-news.asp?newsnum=981 [technovelgy.com]

              It's probably only a matter of time (or perhaps it's already here) before they snoop cell phone signals to figure out who you are so they can target the ad.

            • by acid_andy (534219)
              Then after that it'll be millions of corporately owned ad-drones hovering around, identifying you and chasing you continuously spouting targetted advertising. Then again, why go to all that trouble and energy usage if the ad could just be projected onto someone's glasses. What's that? You don't like Google Glass? Well you're required by law to wear these state mandated prescription glasses in public otherwise you could be endangering yourself and others with your fractionally less than perfect eyesight.
        • Nothing bars private companies putting plate scanners out there to keep track of where you go.

          Except for the fact the scanners have to be somewhere, and being on public property would require a permit and approval from the government. Scanners placed on private property would be legal with the landowners permission, but you would need landowners that don't care about privacy. Scanners on commercial premises, other than those operated by the business itself for its own safety, would probably drive away a high enough ratio of customers that the business would not allow the private company put any scanners there either.

          Yea, $Deity help us all the day some private company or government agency learns about the concept of bribery.

      • by LocalH (28506) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:40AM (#44318901) Homepage

        It's an illusion held by the paranoid or genuinely guilty.

        This is the mainstream mindset, ladies and gentlemen. Those who are concerned about privacy from the government as a default stance, even in public, are "paranoid or genuinely guilty". Yup. No room for the truly innocent to object on moral grounds, if you object to the government being able to track you then you must have something to hide, and to people like this that is the excuse they will then use to violate your privacy in a much worse way. "What have you got to hide, Citizen? SUBMIT"

        • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:58AM (#44319109) Homepage Journal

          It's an illusion held by the paranoid or genuinely guilty.

          This is the mainstream mindset, ladies and gentlemen. Those who are concerned about privacy from the government as a default stance, even in public, are "paranoid or genuinely guilty". Yup. No room for the truly innocent to object on moral grounds, if you object to the government being able to track you then you must have something to hide, and to people like this that is the excuse they will then use to violate your privacy in a much worse way. "What have you got to hide, Citizen? SUBMIT"

          You missed the key word up there. I'll highlight it for you.

          We have limited privacy. We have phone numbers, email addresses, house numbers, apartment units, SSNs, Drivers Licence numbers, credit card numbers, etc. We have been tracked, recorded and our info shared for decades. It's only increasing now as the storage and processing means have reached a level necessary to maintain our info. The speed with which Philip Markoff, the Craigslist Killer, was tracked and apprehended should have made that clear.

      • Tracking info, no. But static location info is not protected.

        Red light camera footage is routinely archived and saved - even posted on YouTube as "safety" messages, or info-ads for the camera mfrs.
        This archiving is against the law.(But no penalty is in place to enforce the data destruction!)
        http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2018570960_redlightcameras01m.html [seattletimes.com]
        http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2008/Bills/PL09/52_.HTM [state.nj.us]
        Police vehicles are routinely outfitted with plate-recognition devices.
    • by I'm New Around Here (1154723) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:23AM (#44318683)

      Of course there's no assumption of privacy when you are in public. But would you want a cop to stand outside every store and bar, taking pictures of every person entering and leaving, and noting what they are carrying at the time? Would you want a cop to follow you everywhere you go, talking to a radio show that is broadcasting it live to the entire city?

      This isn't a case of "privacy while in public", this is a case of "being tracked everywhere you go", and generally the reason given is "for the public good", with "saving the taxpayers money" and "think of the children" thrown in as needed.

      So if you are "not wild about being tracked", why are you downplaying this attempt at tracking every driver anywhere they go?

      • by jythie (914043)
        A variation of that, there are groups out there that photograph and try to 'shame' people going to adult stores. Imagine if they were allowed to access such a database....
      • by classiclantern (2737961) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @12:05PM (#44319199)
        Because of a thing called the Bill of Rights. You can't have free speech without anonymity, and the government has taken that away from us. You can't have freedom of assembly without anonymous movement, and the government has taken that away from us. The government has effectively taken away our Constitutional rights. BTW Mr. Here, our computer puts your vehicle in the vicinity of several known drug dealer's vehicles. That's enough probable cause to get a warrant to search your house, shoot your dog, and plant some evidence. We will be right over.
        • by clong83 (1468431)
          I'm curious why anonymity is necessary for free speech? Serious question.

          The Constitution guarantees I can fundamentally express any idea I want to without fear of reprisals from the state, no matter how controversial or unpopular it might be. It does not guarantee, at least to my understanding, that I can express those ideas anonymously or without repercussions from my fellow citizens... If you feel anonymity is important (they wore hoods in the Klan, after all) you can do that. Take the bus, train,
          • by PRMan (959735)

            The Constitution guarantees I can fundamentally express any idea I want to without fear of reprisals from the state

            Tell that to Snowden.

    • by jythie (914043)
      Privacy probably is not the right word. When out in public you automatically loose a lot of the privacy (and protection) compared to when you are on private land with visual barriers. However, a centralized tracking tool with unknown record keeping lengths and unknown access control is another matter. It is one thing to be seen in public, it is another for people sitting in a private environment (thus not subject to being seen themselves) and press a button to see your movements over who knows how long.
    • by JBMcB (73720) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:42AM (#44318931)

      Key word is assumption.

      You have an assumption of privacy in your house. You do not in public.

      That does not mean you do NOT have a right to privacy while in public.

      I like John C. Dvorak's take on the issue. Cops are lazy. They'd love to have a computer spit out suspects based on tracking everyone everywhere so they don't have to go out and do actual police work - collective evidence, interviewing witnesses, etc...

      The end result of tracking everyone will be - you were the only person driving down the street when this crime happened, so you must be guilty. Sure someone could have walked or rode a bike - but cops usually go with the evidence they have.

    • While I'm not wild about being tracked, I simply don't feel that I have an assumption of privacy while driving around on a public road.

      I think this misses the point.

      There seems to be a difference between being noticed in a public space where anyone including a LEO may note your presence and storing and aggregating records of all of your movements in "public" for all of time. Stalking for example is illegal in every state of the union.

    • I think there is a serious problem when expectations of privacy can be voided by laws which can force disclosure of private information.

      If there was a law passed which said that letters could only be sent in clear plastic envelopes then you couldn't expect the contents of those letters to be private either. The real catch is that the only reason you don't have an expectation of privacy is that the law currently requires you to behave in a manner which makes privacy harder to ensure.

      Of course, that is all b

    • While I'm not wild about being tracked, I simply don't feel that I have an assumption of privacy while driving around on a public road.

      And, unless they're different than Florida with its OnePass toll system, a lot of Californians are already driving around with machine-readable IDs attached to their automobiles.

      I don't expect privacy these days. I just want the people who collect the data to use it responsibly. Preferably, that means not at all. Unless I rob a bank, anyway.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      While I'm not wild about being tracked, I simply don't feel that I have an assumption of privacy while driving around on a public road.

      There's a big difference between privacy and tracking.

      If the police want to sit outside of a known brothel and record license numbers of all of the cars that visit there, well it's a public place and if they want to sit there and write down license numbers, that's fine. My wife could do the same thing, so I shouldn't park there if I don't want anyone to know.

      But if they are doing detailed enough tracking to record all of the cars that went to a known Tea Party rally (or whatever political or social group ha

    • I suppose because the meaning of "assumption of (possible right)" has been corrupted.

      The rules of society aren't handed down on stone tablets. Society works the way we decide it should. If a lot of people think, like you, that you shouldn't expect to be able to drive around anonymously and untracked in public, then you're right. There is no reasonable assumption of privacy while driving on a public road. If most people think we should expect to be able to travel unwatched, then perhaps we should, and pe

    • by nschubach (922175)

      What is the point of a free society if you are not free from tyranny when in public?

    • They should enable plates to report when auto insurance expires
      uninsured motorists are a menace. This could really the situation better, when people realize that any cop car driving by can know your insurance is expired.
  • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:18AM (#44318595) Homepage Journal

    I'd love the police to just be able to scan vehicles to see which are active, which plates do not match vehicles and which vehicles have insurance.

    We are plagued by people who do not have valid registrations, borrow or steal plates and have no insurance.

    Bust 'em on the spot.

    • by bhlowe (1803290)
      But that would be raaaaccciiiisttt..
      • It's racist to assume that people violating the law are a particular race. You just have to stop thinking altogether, or you're racist.

        • by bhlowe (1803290)
          Many crimes ARE committed by different races in unequal percentages. Facts are not assumptions. The gist is this would impact unlicensed, uninsured, undocumented and the poor harder than other groups.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      cops in usa don't have that? in uk at least they seem to. ocr.

      but anyhow.. where was that case of coppers putting a tracking device on a car and arguing they didn't need a warrant?

    • by Spy Handler (822350) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:42AM (#44318929) Homepage Journal

      I agree we have too many unlicensed/uninsured drivers in CA. But the cure they propose is worse than the disease.

      If you put in place all the pieces required for massive surveillance on citizens, sooner or later somebody in power will abuse it. Most likely sooner than later.

      The price of freedom is not just eternal vigilance, it's also the willingness to put up with inconveniences. Such as having illegal aliens with no insurance ding up your car.

    • by egamma (572162)

      I'd love the police to just be able to scan vehicles to see which are active, which plates do not match vehicles and which vehicles have insurance.

      We are plagued by people who do not have valid registrations, borrow or steal plates and have no insurance.

      Bust 'em on the spot.

      This would make it more difficult for criminals to steal cars; they'd have to take some extra time to disable the tracking device and put some out-of-state plates on the car.

  • On cars / trucks just by being out side outdoor signs alleys seems to have at parts of the them not working.

  • by getto man d (619850) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:21AM (#44318633)
    If you can root your license plate, does it affect your wanted level?
  • by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy.tpno-co@org> on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:22AM (#44318661) Homepage

    Well, now I've seen everything. Time to hang it up and get off this crazy thing they call the "Interwebs".

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Well, now I've seen everything. Time to hang it up and get off this crazy thing they call the "Interwebs".

      Really! Consider how yesterday we had an article about Valley Fever around Avenal from the BBC. Now we're getting closer to the source. I think this may be the start of an invasion of privacy. You know, like when you find a Slashdot camera duct-taped outside your front door.

      • Trust me, "getting closer to the source" doesn't do you any good. That just means you are getting a native's perspective. As I must, sadly, identify myself in that group, let me warn you in advanced; we natives are small minded, intelligence fearing simpletons. In general.

        Point being, trusting a newspaper closer to the source is like trusting the "Weekly World News" about, well, world news. Sure, you *can* do that, but you have every reason not to.

  • in NYS i've had the same plates for 10 years, now on my 4th car in that time frame. every two years i pay $170 for a window sticker to register my car with the state. when i buy a new car i pay the DMV to transfer the registration to my new car

    what is the point in new license plates and how is this costing so much money?

    • It'll save the gov the cost of a postage stamp every two years to remind you to pay for your window sticker.

      At least, that seems to be the argument they're making.

  • Issues with money... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Capt James McCarthy (860294) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:28AM (#44318739) Journal

    " potentially save the DMV some of the $20 million spent each year in postage for renewals."

    Why would it safe the DMV money. Isn't that paid for when you pay for the registration anyways as part of the fee/tax?
    I have no issue with it, but the savings should be passed to those paying the bills, not for the govt to keep. But they love taking and keeping our money.

    • by jittles (1613415)

      " potentially save the DMV some of the $20 million spent each year in postage for renewals."

      Why would it safe the DMV money. Isn't that paid for when you pay for the registration anyways as part of the fee/tax? I have no issue with it, but the savings should be passed to those paying the bills, not for the govt to keep. But they love taking and keeping our money.

      My assumption is they still want to charge you postage/labor for mailing out the registration sticker, but not actually mail anything. So they don't intend to pass the cost savings (if there really are any) to the customer, but instead make more money in taxes.

    • by mjr167 (2477430)
      Because the guys that pass the bill will be hired by the firm that makes the plates and get a cut from every plate sold.
    • I have no issue with it, but the savings should be passed to those paying the bills, not for the govt to keep.

      Taxpayers don't pay all the bills of the government. This is true in almost every locale. A good chunk of it comes from borrowing.

  • Power? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by magarity (164372) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @11:42AM (#44318927)

    Where does the power come from for these scrolling advertisements? Will be owner be required to supply a wiring kit to hook it up? Otherwise, how long would a battery last; in an LA traffic jam these plates are going to be running ads for hours at a time.

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @12:06PM (#44319223)

    It's the data collection process and what is used with that data. With Data Mining techniques getting more sophisticated any tracking or automated data collection process, such as license plate scanners erode our privacy. Sure, if you have outstanding tickets or a warrant out for your arrest, an automated system for identifying your vehicle would be beneficial however we start casting bigger and bigger fishing nets and a lot of innocent fish get caught by the same net. How do you ensure that all that data for non-offenders gets removed or does it become another source of information that the government can use to track you? How often were you parked on this street? Oh we say you go over a bridge 50 times? It's a fine line that we cross in the names of efficiencies brought to bear to "reduce costs." There's already a report that the IRS has a system that allows state governments to access private information in the name of efficiency even though nobody in Congress has ever apparently approved such a system. [washingtontimes.com]

  • Bring it on! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kiick (102190) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @12:10PM (#44319289)

    I for one would love to have a smart license plate. Just think of the hacking opportunities!

    Jailbreak your license plate and display snarky messages to the other drivers on the road. Change your state to "confusion". Temporarily change your plate number and see how many red light cameras you can trip in a row. "Borrow" your rude neighbor's id and run up their toll bill. Steal a smart plate and hack it so you don't have to pay to register your vehicle. The possibilities are endless.

    Any "smart" whatever can and will be hacked. If the incentives are large enough, those hacks will get widely distributed and used. How many incidents of license plate hacking will it take before the police decide it's just an expensive way to enable smart criminals? Not too many, I'd guess.

  • Here in South Carolina, we have many running around with expired tags and the police do nothing about it. Insurance companies notify the state when a policy is cancelled and the state is supposed to send you a letter requiring you turn in your tags. So you don't and they don't do anything about it. The police all but ignore no tags and expired tags which are so easy to spot, So we need "smart tags" that allow me to renew my tag without postage? Are you kidding me? The problem here is not the postage..
    • by PRMan (959735)
      My friend is a traffic cop and he says they don't even look at registrations until they are 6 months out of date. The reason is that it is almost invariably a DMV is late problem and not a driver is late problem.
  • by schwit1 (797399) on Thursday July 18, 2013 @12:18PM (#44319395)

    http://www.infowars.com/special-license-plates-shield-officials-from-traffic-tickets/ [infowars.com]

    California Department of Motor Vehicles' "Confidential Records Program," which was created 30 years ago to keep DMV records of police officers private from criminals. The program has since expanded to cover "hundreds of thousands of public employees - from police dispatchers to museum guards - who face little threat from the public. Their spouses and children can get the plates, too.

    1. Receive electronic, tracks-you-everwhere plates
    2. Break into several pieces
    3. Go to DMV, tell them "kids broke them trying to steal them off the car"
    4. Ask for regular plates
    5. If denied, repeat the process until they give up, give you normal, non-privacy-violating license plates
  • I wonder how many accidents are caused by scrolling advertisements and advertisements in general.

  • Forget about the privacy stuff - what about the advertisement crap!?

    If "they" are going to use my car to display ads to someone else, then I better not have to pay anything for my registration. That should be paid by the people who want their ads displayed using my property.

  • Eliminating the sticker, would eliminate the dependence on USMail. When I send in my payment, they update their database, end of story.

    Seems much cheaper, easier and robust than installing electronics and communications equipment on each vehicle. On the other hand, this may increase the desire to install anpr [wikipedia.org] on patrol cars.

  • I have to drill a hole right through the center of my plate to mount it on my vehicle.

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