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

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  • 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.....

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday December 20, 2013 @10:18AM (#45745157)

    I only agree there is "no expectation of privacy" for a car in the sense that cars are not invisible. If my car is parked outside Starbucks, then anyone on the street can see it, and it is not a breach of my privacy to say "I saw Sir Garlon's car parked at Starbucks this morning." This is perfectly reasonable.

    It is one hell of a leap from there to "it's perfectly OK for the government to track someone's vehicle 24/7." Pretending that "no expectation of privacy" in the first sense is congruent with "no expectation of privacy" in the second sense is totally disingenuous. As Jules from Pulp Fiction said, that "ain't the same ballpark, ain't the same league, ain't even the same fuckin' sport!"

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday December 20, 2013 @10:27AM (#45745239)
    I think this is a case where Poe's Law [wikipedia.org] applies.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 20, 2013 @10:28AM (#45745253)
    WOOOOOSH
    How could you not see the sarcasm? Same question to the mod.
  • 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.

  • Re:We also... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheCarp (96830) <[ten.tenaprac] [ta] [cjs]> on Friday December 20, 2013 @12:05PM (#45746135) Homepage

    actually 1984 and Brave new world are both amongst some of my favourite books of all time.

    The thing I find interesting is to think about what Orwell would include today. I mean, he had no way to know that it would be possible for so few to do so much. Even his view screens that could not be turned off and acted as cameras.... envisioned a world where nobody knew if they were watching when. He never considered a world where that act doesn't require an active observer, a world where they can just always be recording and then go back and watch later. Such technology was too far out to even be a pipe dream.

    Hell, 15 years ago people in the know talked about it like it was a pipe dream. I mean sure, we could envision it then, but, the data requirements for both movement and storage were impossible, only maybe as an outside chance, in the hands of a sophisticated group like the NSA, and even then likely more than they can handle.... and now....today.... we know its true.

    Hell I remember people talking about TCP hijacking and types of MITM attacks that always ended with "yah maybe if you were the NSA and could be snooping on every backbone connection".... 15 years ago, that was fiction; but it had become imaginable.

    I have to wonder what 1984 would include if it had been written in the 90s.

  • by currently_awake (1248758) on Friday December 20, 2013 @01:10PM (#45746793)
    If you convert the video to license plate numbers (OCR) then you can put that in a database with the time. This allows searching for cars easily and quickly, and allows you to work out the probable route the car used.

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