Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Transportation United Kingdom United States

It's Not Just the NSA: Police Are Tracking Your Car 201

Posted by Soulskill
from the they-know-what-you-did-last-summer dept.
New submitter blastboy writes "Every day in Britain, a vast system of cameras tracks cars on the road, feeding their movements into a database used by police. And because that data is networked, cops can use it to go back in time — or even predict your movements. But even though there are serious concerns about the technology, and it's regularly been abused by law enforcement, it has now been exported by the Brits and put in place by police departments around the world."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

It's Not Just the NSA: Police Are Tracking Your Car

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 20, 2013 @09:59AM (#45745005)

    Government surveillance is necessary in this date and age to protect not only our Freedoms but also our security.

    England, the USofA, and the rest of the Free World have fought a long and hard battle against totalitarian, oppressive and stifling governments. And with the current trend of indiscriminate searching, monitoring and spying on its citizens, the Free World will stay free.

  • State Abuse... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 20, 2013 @09:59AM (#45745017)

    ...it's regularly been abused by law enforcement, it has now been exported by the Brits and put in place by police departments around the world....

    Well, of course, the Brits have always been the first to invent new technical concepts. The steam engine, the computer, the jet, radar, you name it.. In this case we wrote the book here, so I'm not surprised that we're exporting it.

    The book was 1984.....

    • Re:State Abuse... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@carp a n e t . net> on Friday December 20, 2013 @10:38AM (#45745321) Homepage

      I could have sworn it wasn't meant to be taken as an instruction manual. Possibly the worst mistake since that whole fiasco about serving man.

      Which, coincidently is the movie reference that pops into my head whenever I see a cop car with "to protect and serve"

      • by cayenne8 (626475)

        Which, coincidently is the movie reference that pops into my head whenever I see a cop car with "to protect and serve"

        I keep thinking we need to change that motto to "To collect and serve".

    • Re:State Abuse... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by erikkemperman (252014) on Friday December 20, 2013 @10:57AM (#45745473)

      Thank you. I was waiting for a 1984 reference to appear... It provides me with a lame excuse to plug another British writer (sort of) I've stumbled across recently:

      Arthur Koestler [wikipedia.org]

      He wrote about totalitarianism as well, but much more subtle and less dramatic then Orwell. To each his own, but I have a new favourite dystopianist.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      The first steam engine was invented in Spain. The abacus, the world's first computer, was invented in Sumeria. The first jet aircraft was invented in Romania. Radar was invented in Germany.

      Don't let those facts stop you from claiming the Brits invented everything, like you limeys always do.
      • I've even read a Brit claiming they had the first European printing press, Mr. Gutenberg of Mainz, Germany must be over the moon!

      • Actually, the first steam engine was invented in 10AD, by the Greeks [wikipedia.org], but thanks for playing along.
    • The original title of the book was 1948. He was writing about the cold war.
      Editors made him change the title to 1984. Read 1985 for some more info.
    • by Albanach (527650)

      Strangely, the article seems to say that a stop on an unrelated issue that captured a violent criminal was, to quote, "a disaster". But don't unrelated stops result in charges and convictions all the time?

      I don't want to downplay individual security and privacy concerns, but the article is clearly biased. There are no examples of crimes being prevented, yet ti is clear that many are. Without a balanced picture, how can any reasonable person form a reasoned judgment?

      • by bonehead (6382)

        I don't want to downplay individual security and privacy concerns, but the article is clearly biased. There are no examples of crimes being prevented, yet ti is clear that many are. Without a balanced picture, how can any reasonable person form a reasoned judgment?

        I would argue that it simply doesn't matter how many crimes were prevented, or of what type. There are certain prices that are simply too high to pay, and loss of freedom and privacy is one. This technology crosses the line where it is in itself far worse than anything it might prevent.

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday December 20, 2013 @10:01AM (#45745039)

    Boston police apparently abandoned [arstechnica.com] their license-plate reading program after reporters found out they weren't using it for the stated purpose of finding stolen vehicles.

    Of course, it is easier to get a crooked, ineffective police program killed when it is funded from the local budget, not windfall "homeland security" dollars in the US.

    • by mishehu (712452)
      I'm sure that the Boston program is only down temporarily - stupid monkey with the wrench broke things. But never fear, it will be back again in the near future under a new guise... And when it does, I will keep singing that one Rockwell song every time I get in my car...
      • by SirGarlon (845873)
        There's no pleasing some people.
        • by Scutter (18425)

          It's cynicism borne of past experience. Governments are not trustworthy. They never have been and they never will. Constant vigilance against abuses is the only way to stop it. Public apathy is why we're where we are.

          • by SirGarlon (845873)
            There comes a point when cynicism and apathy become mutually reinforcing and, soon, indistinguishable.
    • Boston police apparently "abandoned" [arstechnica.com] their license-plate reading program after reporters found out they weren't using it for the stated purpose of finding stolen vehicles.

      FTFY - you forgot the scare quotes.

    • Many agencies don't bother with this since there are dozens (at least) of private companies that drive around with scanners. I have not taken any time to follow up on suits and laws that were being proposed to protect people, so can't say for sure where these people can no longer operate. This was easy to resolve in Michigan with no front plate requirement, I simply started backing in everywhere. In CA where front plates are required, the only protection is a cover when parked.

      So the Police in Boston sto

  • Tracking the movements of vehicles is quite a bit different than tracking cell phone conversations. There is no expectation of privacy when driving a vehicle on public roads. Operating a vehicle (at least in the US) is heavily regulated, requiring registration of the vehicle, insurance, and licensed operators. In my area, in addition to the traffic cameras there are license plate scanners on most police vehicles. They scan and record the plates of vehicles as the police drive around town, popping up an alert if they get a "hit" on a vehicle with issues (suspended registration, insurance, or involvement in a crime). You're also tracked via tolls (EZ Pass in my area) and gasoline purchases (credit card data), but the police don't have easy access to that data without a subpoena.
    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Friday December 20, 2013 @10:15AM (#45745131)

      If there's no expectation of privacy on public roads, then why do people get freaked out if they notice someone following them? There is some expectation of privacy on public roads, especially as you move away from cities.

    • There is no expectation of privacy when driving a vehicle on public roads.

      I fully expect that governments not record my movements with cameras in public places.

      Operating a vehicle (at least in the US) is heavily regulated, requiring registration of the vehicle, insurance, and licensed operators.

      Irrelevant.

      • by John3 (85454)

        I fully expect that governments not record my movements with cameras in public places.

        They aren't recording YOUR movements, they are recording the movements of a licensed piece of equipment on roadways built and maintained using public funds. BTW, I don't condone this data warehousing, I am pointing out the huge different between NSA tracking of electronic communication and government observation of physical movement through open public spaces. They are VERY different situations and the headline implies they are alike. Debating the recording of vehicle movement should be done independentl

        • They aren't recording YOUR movements

          You can try to pretend they aren't, but I don't buy it.

          licensed piece of equipment on roadways built and maintained using public funds.

          All irrelevancies.

          Well, SirGarlon's post above already summed up how I feel about all this.

        • by buck-yar (164658)

          And a GPS tracker planted on your car isn't tracking YOUR movements, its tracking the movements of the govt owned GPS tracker. LOL at your distinction.

          Also, tell me where in the Constitution this is stated as something the govt is to do. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the constitution knows its duties are enumerated, not infinite.

          • by John3 (85454)

            And a GPS tracker planted on your car isn't tracking YOUR movements, its tracking the movements of the govt owned GPS tracker. LOL at your distinction.

            Also, tell me where in the Constitution this is stated as something the govt is to do. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the constitution knows its duties are enumerated, not infinite.

            A GPS is attached to a specific car. Recording every vehicle passing through a toll booth is not targeting your vehicle or any other vehicle. There is a difference.

            The government does lots of things that are not in the Constitution. Check the 10th amendment. Not supporting the recording of all this vehicle data, but I still stand by my assertion that it's quite different from NSA recording and logging of private calls.

          • s/the govt/the federal government/g
            s/is to do/is allowed to do/g

            Your phraseology is introducing ambiguities. Is the above correct?

            The state governments would still be completely within their rights to do the same. I'm not quite so confident in your proclaimed understanding of the Constitution.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution [wikipedia.org]

            • Although admittedly the 4th and 9th would seem to apply in this specific circumstance, strict constructionism can obviously be taken too far as a general rule. "...are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." is obviously a bit vague on the divisions.

          • Also, tell me where in the Constitution this is stated as something the govt is to do. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the constitution knows its duties are enumerated, not infinite.

            I'm sure this falls under the Interstate Commerce clause. Because everything the Federal Government wants to do, that it's not allowed to do, somehow falls under the Commerce clause.

    • There is no expectation of privacy when driving a vehicle on public roads.

      Bullshit.

      If that were true, they wouldn't need a warrant to search your car.

      • That 'warrant' thing has been watered down to probable cause with regard to the search of an auto where we reside.

        Probable cause has been watered down to the eye-of-the-beholder method, often adjudicated by a 20 year old with a marine haircut.

        • That 'warrant' thing has been watered down to probable cause with regard to the search of an auto where we reside.

          Probable cause has been watered down to the eye-of-the-beholder method, often adjudicated by a 20 year old with a marine haircut.

          23 year old (minimum age requirement).

          Otherwise, yea.

        • Them stretching the law as far as they can get away with does not change the original intent of the law.

      • by John3 (85454)
        HUGE difference between observing a vehicle's location and searching the vehicle. BTW, police do not need a warrant to search your car if they observe an illegal item on the dashboard or passenger seat. If the item is in plain site they can stop you and then search the rest of your vehicle without any warrant.
        • HUGE difference between observing a vehicle's location and searching the vehicle.

          HUGE difference between the statement "no expectation of privacy when driving a vehicle on public roads" and reality.

          BTW, police do not need a warrant to search your car if they observe an illegal item on the dashboard or passenger seat. If the item is in plain site they can stop you and then search the rest of your vehicle without any warrant.

          Plain 'sight,' and yea, that's called "being in the commission of a crime," and when you're in that state you forfeit a lot of rights. But that has nothing to do with OP claiming that there's "no expectation of privacy when driving a vehicle on public roads," unless you add the addendum, "while you're blatantly breaking the law."

    • No, I do not accept your argument. I see no legitimate reason for the police to track innocent people for the purposes of solving crimes that have not happened yet. It would be one thing if they had plate recognition software that was scanning for a list of stolen vehicles but that's not whats happening. They're creating a log of where everyone is at all times of the day, just in case they find out later they were doing something illegal. Reality is not a corporate network and the government are not our sys

    • There is no expectation of privacy when driving a vehicle on public roads.

      Sure there is. Now, I don't mean to say that I have an expectation of privacy for any given trip, but I certainly have an expectation of privacy when it comes to someone gathering months or years worth of data on where I go, when, how fast, who with, etc, etc, etc.

    • There is no expectation of privacy when driving a vehicle on public roads.

      This is the tricky bit, where a line needs to be drawn. There is a difference between "no expectation of privacy" and "expectation of unencumbered, constant surveillance".

      Lets say I was walking down a public high street, having a conversation with my girlfriend. I have no expectation of privacy there either, but I would feel somewhat violated if in ten years time I was presented with a written transcript of what we were saying to each other on that day.

      ANPR (number plate recognition) has been used in UK pet

    • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Friday December 20, 2013 @10:49AM (#45745405)

      You know what? Fuck all this "no expectation of privacy" bullshit!

      Sure, anything people do in public could be observed. But those are the keywords: "anything could." Not "everything will." And certainly not "everything will be observed and then get stored forever in an instantly-searchable government database!"

      This Orwellian shit needs to stop.

      • Remember, the only legislated privacy we have is the privacy of consumer video rentals.

        This is an important legislation. Its motivation for passing is also an important thing to consider.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        This Orwellian shit needs to stop.

        I agree, but it's difficult to argue that it's Orwellian to monitor that which could be visually monitored if only you were a savant. Optical license plate scanners on cop cars are about the least offensive thing that's going on right now, and it's not like it's difficult to defeat; you could for example mock up a temporary registration tag and put it in your back window, or a fake dealer tag and put it in place of the license plate — just be sure to mock a real one. I mean, if somehow you had some go

        • agree, but it's difficult to argue that it's Orwellian to monitor that which could be visually monitored if only you were a savant.

          Red herring. It's not difficult to argue at all, because it's the aggregation that's Orwellian, not the mere monitoring. Even savants are not omniscient.

      • by celle (906675)

        "This Orwellian shit needs to stop."

                When the world stops being Orwellian then the complaining can stop, not before. If you need examples, watch the news.

    • by MrL0G1C (867445)

      There is no expectation of privacy when driving a vehicle on public roads.

      It's called stalking, there's a line, they went way past it.

    • I would argue that while there isn't an expectation of privacy while on the roads there could be a good argument for anonymity on on the roads which is what you loose with mass 24x7 government surveillance of your movements.
    • This is a CLASSIC case of where technology advances past the law. Police surveillance traditionally meant two detectives following around the perp in an unmarked car and drinking lots of coffee. The implicit man power commitment was in itself a limitation on how far the privacy of citizens could be infringed. Now that this limitation has been rendered obsolete, you can expect the courts to follow the norm of imposing a new limitation in the future.

      • by John3 (85454)
        I would expect there to be restrictions on the use of the gathered data but not necessarily the collection of the data. Taking it a step at a time:

        1: I expect that police would monitor public spaces, for example Times Square in NYC

        2: I expect that the video is recorded, both for short term review as well as later investigation if a crime takes place

        The question is how do we limit the use of the recordings? If a hit-and-run occurs two blocks from Times Square then police would likely canvas the area

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      There is no expectation of privacy when driving a vehicle on public roads.

      There is also a big difference between tracking a specific vehicle (e.g. the police have reasonable suspicion that the person is engaged in criminal activity) and tracking everybody. Generally speaking, the principle in play here is: If the cops don't have a reason to suspect you of a crime, they should be leaving you completely alone. And if they catch you doing one crime (e.g. speeding), that does not give them a legitimate reason to immediately suspect you of another (e.g. human trafficking).

      I can unders

    • by s.petry (762400)

      I think you are combining two things. First is whether or not a police officer can "run your plate". "running a plate" was supposed to, and until very recently did require, probable cause. The "why" on this is because running said plate returns much more data than just "is the car stolen". IANAL and won't claim to know each State's position on this. That said, I have heard from Police in my area that even if they get a hit for expired tags you can not be pulled over without some other violation. Yeah,

  • I believe it's because of the proliferation of ANPR and other cameras that I had a major reduction of my motor insurance premium this year. Society pays for the crimes of the minority, so using technology to take the crooks off the road pays dividends to all.
    • by Xest (935314)

      You too? Mine dropped from about £380 to £165.

      To be fair I think it's a number of factors ranging from dealing with uninsured drivers by stating all cars must either be insured, or declared off the road and linking that up with insurance/DVLA databases to automatically pay a visit to cars registered with neither insurance nor off the road, through to the EU ruling that insurers can't discriminate based on inherent physical traits like sex, through to more work being done to cut down

    • Actually, if 3rd party insurance were provided by the state and funded from fuel taxes, we could ensure everyone was insured, everyone's premiums were lower, save a fortune on IT and not have to track anyone.

      Of course that would be too convenient and remove authoriteh from too many jobsworths.
  • by Ice Tiger (10883) on Friday December 20, 2013 @10:12AM (#45745111)

    " Another man, who spoke to journalists but chose to remain anonymous to prevent further harassment, says he was stopped more than 25 times by police under a variety of pretences after he had attended a peaceful local protest against duck and pheasant shooting. He finally made a formal complaint after police armed with machine guns pulled him over during an evening out with his wife."

    Apart from the invasion of privacy, what a complete waste of resources, maybe some budgets need to be reduced in order to cut down on waste.

    • "...duck and pheasant shooting"

      We sapiens would find something to fight over even if religion and race were non-existent.

    • " Another man, who spoke to journalists but chose to remain anonymous to prevent further harassment, says he was stopped more than 25 times by police under a variety of pretences after he had attended a peaceful local protest against duck and pheasant shooting. He finally made a formal complaint after police armed with machine guns pulled him over during an evening out with his wife."

      Take two scenarios: Police records all known locations of the car of the "duck and pheasant shooting protestor". When a "duck and pheasant shooter"s house is burnt down, they find that the protester has been near that house repeatedly and he becomes an arson suspect.

      And scenario two: "Duck and pheasant shooting" protester is stopped 25 times, including by police with machine guns.

      The second one is clearly unacceptable. The first one? I don't know.

      • by bonehead (6382)

        The second one is clearly unacceptable. The first one? I don't know.

        How can you not know? They are either both unacceptable, or they are both perfectly fine.

        If you enjoy living in a free society, they are both clearly unacceptable.

        If you lack confidence that you have the ability to manage your own life, and would prefer that a totalitarian regime make all of your decisions for you, then you should support the surveillance in both cases.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      " Another man, who spoke to journalists but chose to remain anonymous to prevent further harassment, says he was stopped more than 25 times by police under a variety of pretences after he had attended a peaceful local protest against duck and pheasant shooting. He finally made a formal complaint after police armed with machine guns pulled him over during an evening out with his wife."

      Apart from the invasion of privacy, what a complete waste of resources, maybe some budgets need to be reduced in order to cut down on waste.

      "'I'm telling you the whole truth! They stopped me for no reason other than attending a pheasant shooting protest!"

      "Can we take your name for the record?"

      "No"

      "Were you driving with no tax and no insurance again?"

      "No comment."

    • Ironically they stop the peaceful anti-shooting protestor while armed with machine guns.

      *facepalm*

  • We're tracking ourselves!

  • Just wait until we export SCORPION STARE [wikia.com]!
  • One picture from the article illustrates why we need this in the UK. Its the large muzzy threat [cloudfront.net] that we face.
    • And here I thought only we here in the US had people like you.
    • The police still kill more than them.. lightning strikes on golf courses also.

      Go back to your EDL rally.

      • by Chrisq (894406)

        The police still kill more than them.. lightning strikes on golf courses also.

        Go back to your EDL rally.

        Lets take the USA. 2,977 people killed in the 9/11 attacks. Each year 37 people are killed by lightning strikes [noaa.gov]. In the past it was as high as 70. Even if we assume that all of these occurred on golf courses you are way off. As for police killings - if you mean in all time the answer is "so far". Looking at Wiki lists they kill about 400 each year. The muzzy threat is growing.

        In Britain (which does not have tropical storms) only 3 people a year [bbc.co.uk] are killed by lightning strikes and 15 people [bbc.co.uk] have been killed

  • ... perhaps they already are ...
  • ... will begin tracking vehicles following legalization of marijuana use. The system is called "Dude, where's my car?"

  • In November, some guy at the local mall went to several shops and asked the young women on staff to help him find stuff on lower racks. He then took some "upskirt" pictures with his camera phone. When he got noticed, he ran out of the mall.

    Police reports in December give the follow up. Mall security went back to the cameras and found the guy. They tracked him outside the mall running to his car. The parking lot camera got his license plate number. License plate number was sent to the local police, who picke

  • by mattpalmer1086 (707360) on Friday December 20, 2013 @01:03PM (#45746733)

    I attended a conference on XML back in roughly 2004. A police technical architect was describing the ANPR system. He pointed out that the current deployments of the time were entirely local and not joined up nationally - but went on to say that it wasn't a very big step to do this, allowing the tracking of vehicle movements on a national scale. He looked embarrassed and uncomfortable as he said this.

    I got the very strong impression at the time that he was trying to give a warning on where this technology was heading.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming

Working...