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ACLU Protests Police Scanning License Plates 821

dustman81 writes "The ACLU is objecting to the practice of police in Springdale, Ohio using an automated license-plate scanner on patrol cars to locate stolen vehicles or those whose owners are wanted on felony warrants. The scanner can read 900 license plates an hour traveling at highway speeds. So far, the scanner has located 95 stolen cars and helped locate 111 wanted felons. The locations of the license plates scanned are tagged with GPS data. All matches are stored (with no expiration date given) and can be brought up later and cross-referenced on a map. If the plate is wanted, the times and locations of where it was scanned can be referenced. The Springdale police department hopes to begin using the system soon to locate misdemeanor suspects. This system is also in use in British Columbia."
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ACLU Protests Police Scanning License Plates

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:22AM (#20038349)
    Apparently you didn't Read The Fucking Article.

    *Every* license plate that is scanned gets saved and downloaded onto PCs at Police HQ. Then when a warrant is issued on you later on, they can go back into the database and pull up *everywhere your car has been* before you did anything wrong. The article clearly states this.

    This is not just storing the location and plates of criminals, because the cross-checking isn't done in real time, it is done when the data is downloaded later. The article clearly states this.

    This is not targeted surveillance of criminals with the 'innocent plates' discarded in real time (which I would agree would be perfectly fine). This is creating a massive database of where every car in that part of Ohio is, with no time limit on when the data expires, and no limit on who can access the data.

    Papers, please, comrade citizen!
  • by minerat ( 678240 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:45AM (#20038557)

    As usual, Bruce Schneier has already been all over it - http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/10/auto matic_licen.html [schneier.com]

    It boils down to:
    1. Automated scanning has great utility to PDs and violates no rights.
    2. PDs have no need to retain data on innocent people - do not store non matches and allow the accused to challenge the accuracy of the data.
  • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:57AM (#20038655)
    The information has always been there, and they could have recorded it if they liked. So it's nothing new.

    On that point, consider yourself pwned. [findlaw.com]
  • Re:ACLU Wrong Again (Score:3, Informative)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr@@@mac...com> on Monday July 30, 2007 @01:02AM (#20038695) Journal
    The tenth amendment. If a power's not specifically delegated to the government by the constitution, then government's not entitled to that power.


  • by rfugger ( 923317 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @01:48AM (#20038997) Homepage
    According to this announcement [baitcar.com], license plate data in BC is purged every three months. Yes, in Canada we do have privacy laws. It may not be perfect privacy, but at least it's a consideration when they roll out these programs. The Springdale cops should at the very least do the same.
  • by schlick ( 73861 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:11AM (#20039123)
    Driving is a Right, not a privilege.

    "Personal liberty, or the Right to enjoyment of life and liberty, is one of the fundamental or natural Rights, which has been protected by its inclusion as a guarantee in the various constitutions, which is not derived from, or dependent on, the U.S. Constitution, which may not be submitted to a vote and may not depend on the outcome of an election. It is one of the most sacred and valuable Rights, as sacred as the Right to private property...and is regarded as inalienable." 16 C.J.S., Constitutional Law, Sect.202, p.987.

    "Personal liberty largely consists of the Right of locomotion -- to go where and when one pleases -- only so far restrained as the Rights of others may make it necessary for the welfare of all other citizens. The Right of the Citizen to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, by horse drawn carriage, wagon, or automobile, is not a mere privilege which may be permitted or prohibited at will, but the common Right which he has under his Right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Under this Constitutional guarantee one may, therefore, under normal conditions, travel at his inclination along the public highways or in public places, and while conducting himself in an orderly and decent manner, neither interfering with nor disturbing another's Rights, he will be protected, not only in his person, but in his safe conduct." II Am.Jur. (1st) Constitutional Law, Sect.329, p.1135.

    http://teamliberty.net/id18.html [teamliberty.net]

    People who claim that driving isn't a right are usually parents or Divers Ed teachers trying to control teenagers. Sorry, those of use who understand what freedom means don't buy your sorry argument.
  • by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:27AM (#20039217)
    Wanna know why people are breaking traffic laws? BECAUSE THEY ARE DAMM STUPID when applied the way they are in North America.

    1) Stop signs: Why must every corner have a stop sign? You drive five meters and oops another stop sign. Europe was smarter in that they actually use the YIELD sign! When was the last time the yield sign was used in North America?

    2) Stop lights: North America if it is not in love with the stop sign happens, then becomes in love with the stop light. Ever heard of a round-about? Britain has quite a few, and now mainland Europe is building them everywhere because they are efficient at keeping traffic moving.

    3) Speed Limit: In some corners of North America the speed limit is so freaken low it ain't even funny. In Europe depending on the country if you can drive faster they let you drive faster. The speed limit is fitted so that traffic can keep moving. And if traffic should slow down then well many cities have changing speed limits and traffic is slowed down.

    Quotas: Absolutely police have quotas. If the police REALLY cared about stopping bad behavior then they would stop reckless driving. But of course that is harder to catch and requires being on guard and active. Yet speeding is easy. Sit in a corner and wait!

    So while I don't blame the individual policeperson, I do blame the freaken system since it is so much out of whack.
  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) * <slashdot.kadin@xoxy. n e t> on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:27AM (#20039225) Homepage Journal
    Except that those camera-enforcement systems actually cause more accidents, not less. So if you're OK with the automatic license-plate system, I'd probably try to distance them from the red-light cameras. They're a disaster, and the only reason they're around is because they generate revenue.

    E.g.: 2007 Virginia DOT Report Shows Red Light Cameras Increase Accidents [thenewspaper.com]
  • by thepainter ( 1134709 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:51AM (#20039353)
    As for the scanning of license plates...

    The Supreme Court is clear in that this kind of observation by law enforcement doesn't constitute a search under the 4th Amendment. So you can't debate whether it is a reasonable or an unreasonable search as it never was a search to begin with.

    1) Is the person in a public place? Simple yes or no.
    2) Does the person have an expectation of privacy? For instance, a closed telephone booth is in a public place, but grants a person an expectation of privacy and law enforcement thus needs a warrant to record a conversation therein.

    If 1 is yes and 2 is no, then it falls under the plain sight (or plain view) doctrine. It is an exception to the warrant requirement, requires no probable cause or reasonable suspicion, and is not considered a search (of any kind) under the 4th Amendment.

    As for tracking/storing this data for long periods of time...

    If the police can legally obtain information, there is nothing stopping them from amassing it in a database under the 4th Amendment. Something that wasn't a search to begin with doesn't magically become a search because it is entered it in to a database. A ruling stating otherwise would be groundbreaking.

    However, the Court has ruled that you have a "right to privacy" under the 9th Amendment and some other numbers they pulled out of the butt of their number-gnome (since the Constitution doesn't explicitly say anything about privacy). So perhaps the Court will rule that the privacy of citizens outweighs the benefit to law enforcement in rearguards to warehousing this information.

    If I had to bet, I'd say the ACLU is going to lose. But nothing stops the people of Springdale, Ohio from expecting a higher level of privacy than the minimums set by the US Constitution. I've not been to Ohio, but I'm pretty sure they have local elections there too.
  • by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @03:08AM (#20039441)
    "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
  • by Joseph_Daniel_Zukige ( 807773 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @03:44AM (#20039611) Homepage Journal
    My sister owns a circa 75 Nova. The body is not in the best condition, but it runs. Every time I go to Utah to visit her and drive that car, the police pull me over and give me a ticket for something ridiculous. Here's a couple of cases in point:

    Just after dark, going out for some food with my baby in my wife's lap. Illegal, I know. (A pox on insurance companies.) Dangerous? Maybe, but then cars are dangerous machines. If they're going to make laws against putting children in cars with restraints, they might as well start making up rules about how many minutes a day you can allow a child to be in a car. And when are they going to go after the repeat offender drunk driver without whom the risk of accident would drop like a rock?

    (Don't tell me the one about the poor woman in south Florida rush hour traffic crying when she finally gets to the checkpoint because a sudden brake at low speeds put her baby's head against the windshield, and the cop's sob story about having to charge her with negligent homicide. I've heard it before, I draw a different lesson from it.)

    Well, the cop pulls us over, uses language along the lines of calling me and my wife wetbacks, asks for me driver's license. I hand him an international permit. It's from Japan. He's never seen an international permit before, apparently. What is a white guy doing with an international permit from Japan? (Now that he's up close he can see that I'm noticeably white. He hasn't yet noticed that my wife is Japanese, which might not be surprising. She looks rather hispanic.)

    I explain that I've been in Japan with my wife and kid for several years and my Utah permit has expired. He asks for it anyway, and why didn't I get it renewed? I apologize for not carrying it with me or getting it renewed when I'm only expecting to be in the States for a bit over a week.

    Things go downhill from there, because, like many officers, this guy can't admit he's wrong.

    He goes back to his car, radios in and we wait at least a half an hour while he discusses things with whomever. (No exaggeration. My kid is really getting hungry, and my parents and my sister are wondering where we are by the time we get back.)

    In the end, the only thing he can get me on is the child carrier.

    So I'm out $65, which is a week's worth of food back in Japan for my family at the wages I'm earning.

    Several years later, my brother and I are in the same car making a late night run to Home Depot, first, to trade a fitting for a pipe so my sister has plumbing that works now that she is out of the hospital, and second, to pick up some medicine she needs within a few hours. We are calculating that Home Depot closes before the place with the pharmacy. It's Saturday night just after Christmas, snowing, the streets are not yet slick but will be a bit slippery in an hour or so.

    Coming out of Home Depot, I stop at a traffic light. Full stop, like the law says.

    Right turn on red is legal in Utah, but, of course, you must come to a full stop and signal.

    Full stop. I signal. I turn. I need to get over to the left as soon as possible for a left turn, so I signal and change lanes. I get pulled over.

    The ticket? Not waiting long enough between lane changes. $65 that I could not afford.

    We missed the pharmacy.

    Fortunately, there was another store that could do the pharmacy thing until midnight, but we had to call from her home to find it. Also, we were really lucky that she didn't end up needing the medicine before I could get back with it.

    Can you charge a cop with (negligent?) homicide because he's busy profiling you when you are trying to get necessary medicine back to your sister?

    No extenuating circumstances, no arguing the ticket. I'm sure my black, knee length fur coat and bright aquamarine silk trousers didn't help settle that poor cop's nerves when I got out of the car to explain that my sister's life really was in danger.

    I can understand some of the ambiguities here. You have to understand, my
  • Re:It will be abused (Score:3, Informative)

    by GovernmentSources ( 692054 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @05:11AM (#20039955)
    It has already been used abused in Arlington, Virginia and in several Connecticut cities. Sure finding stolen cars sounds great, and that's just what it takes to get the lemmings to give the thumbs up to this technology. But let's be real about the true purpose: to make money. Arlington will tow away your car for overdue library books. In Connecticut, the off-duty marshals -- who get paid a bounty for each car towed away -- trawled the WalMart parking lots to find people with a few overdue parking tickets. A woman in Bridgeport had her car towed out of her driveway while she was home over $85 in parking tickets. Is that the kind of world you want to live in? References: Connecticut [nhregister.com] Arlington [thenewspaper.com]
  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @05:25AM (#20040037)

    Don't tell me that you must have a cell phone, because you do realise they know where you are - or where your cell phone is - anyway, don't you?

    They don't know where I am. I paid cash for my cellphone. When I bought it, I did not give my name or any other personal information. And I pre-pay, in cash, for all my calls.

    How is this possible? I live in China, where privacy is respected (at least for cellphones).

  • by binary paladin ( 684759 ) <binarypaladin&gmail,com> on Monday July 30, 2007 @07:55AM (#20040805)
    The biggest problem here is that cops are quite often worse than the criminals they hunt. That and the crime ring the have going with the lower court judges and prosecutors. I am FAR less concerned with my car being stolen than I am about being targeted by the police AGAIN. They will make your life hell and if you stand up to them they will stomp on you.

    They say a conservative is a liberal that hasn't been mugged yet and that a liberal is a conservative that hasn't been beaten up by the police yet. However, the sad reality is that most of us harmless people are constantly juggling which criminal is more dangerous. Well, check your pain and suffering count sometime and I think you'll find that government criminals have your average thief and mugger beat by a long shot.

    If the police were generally a bunch of guys who really lived to protect and serve and defend the rights of the community, it'd be great. They're not though. A few are, but they're the exception to the bullies or even the average types that have felt the taint of authority and let it go to their heads.

    I don't think the ACLU is some bastion of greatness--their stand on gun rights is asinine--but just because something makes it easier to "catch criminals" doesn't mean it's a "good thing" and it doesn't even mean it's going to protect anyone.

    Oh yeah, one more thing:

    "Let's roll back though. These are license plates. Plates that are government issue, on highways that are government funded (yes by the taxes of the people, but government funded) and a device that is government controlled. So where's the problem?"

    I'd say the government issued plates are the first problem. And yeah, the roads are government funded, but who owns the government? They're PUBLIC roads, NOT government roads. They're MY roads as a tenant in common. Why in the hell do I have to ask my SERVANT pretty please to use MY roads and get a plate from them? And roads get paid for if you use them. For the time being gas taxes do a good job of being a fair user fee. The more you use, the more you pay.

    I might not have the same expectation of privacy on road as I do in my house, just as there's a big difference between a PUBLIC room like a living room and my bedroom. However, I don't want a camera on every street corner and all my movements tracked just because it might catch a few car thieves. It's just not worth it. Especially given the direction it WILL go and HAS historically gone. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It will ALWAYS be used by whoever is in power to suppress opposition.
  • Re:explain to me (Score:2, Informative)

    by GNT ( 319794 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @08:23AM (#20040965)
    It's called the right to travel. It moves with the common, majority travel means of each age from when it was recognized.

    So first it was horses. Then railways. However, due to the myopia of the .court system, it didn't get extended properly to cars, mass transit and airplanes. Which is part of the reason we are in the pickle we are in.

    You are arrogantly in error and actually part of the problem. You, like so many others, don't understand that in a country based on freedom, having a Bill of Rights that encodes the Ninth and Tenth and now 14th amendments, that virtually all your activities are mostly rights and are violated by .gov on a daily basis.

    The sooner we return to a more absolutist view of individual rights the sooner we will get out from under this fascism-lite that is being foisted on us.
  • Re:ACLU Wrong Again (Score:3, Informative)

    by IWannaBeAnAC ( 653701 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @08:58AM (#20041321)

    You could set up such a camera in the USA. In many parts of Europe, it would be illegal. Even if you were allowed yo set up the camera in the first place, in Europe personal information is owned by that person, irrespective of who collects it. You would need the permission of everyone passing by to collect and store the information, and you would also need to provide a mechanism for people to find out what information you are storing on them and a mechanism for them to correct errors in the database. There is a difference between noticing things pass by on a public street, and setting up an automatic system for pervasive surveillance. For some reason, it seems that many slashdotters don't recognize a difference?!?!

    By the way, the credit database example would also be illegal in Europe (not that being illegal means it never happens of course - the Swift fiasco transferring data to the CIA is one large scale example, as far as I know no one was ever prosecuted and it is probably still continuing. And there is probably a large number of low-level violations of the data protection laws going on all the time). See here [europa.eu].

  • Re:Go away ACLU (Score:4, Informative)

    by QCompson ( 675963 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @11:31AM (#20043233)

    The ACLU is doing nothing but continuing to drive the US into the hole it's in by protecting criminal and ignoring the law abiding, hard working, common citizen. I am sick and tired of the battles the ACLU picks.

    Hardly. The ACLU is in fact protecting the law abiding, hard working, common citizen and their civil liberties. The very same civil liberties that the founding fathers fought so hard to establish. There's no excuse for the government to keep a list of law abiding citizens whereabouts indefinitely.

    Totalitarian states often have less crime and are "safer" for those who follow the rules. Perhaps you would be more interested in that sort of government.
  • by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @11:36AM (#20043307) Homepage Journal
    Infractions are treated like any other violation of the law, except that you do not have the right to a jury trial or court-appointed counsel. You go before a judge, plead guilty or not guilty, and then either pay the fine (if pleading guilty) or have a trial date scheduled. There is still presumption of innocence, you can have counsel present, you can appeal the verdict if found guilty, and the state may only try you once on the same charge. You can skip going before a judge by signing the citation and sending in the fine, which, if you read the fine print, is the same as pleading guilty, and it saves everyone some time and the court some money.

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