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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 Sunday July 29, 2007 @11:49PM (#20038083)
    It's a state-issued plate, and it's designed to be publicly viewable and even photographable in many areas (where photo blocking equipment is illegal). This is really not much different than officers looking at plats normally, just more efficient. Next up? GPS tagging plates.
  • ACLU Wrong Again (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gbulmash ( 688770 ) * <semi_famous@ y a hoo.com> on Sunday July 29, 2007 @11:54PM (#20038131) Homepage Journal
    I'm sorry, but this is one of the instances where I disagree with the ACLU.

    You're out on the open road. You have no reasonable expectation of privacy. No civil right is being violated, IMO.

    Is this another example of us basically having less and less privacy when we leave our homes? Yes? Are our movements being recorded more and more and is it getting annoying? Yes? But claim that the police recording license plates on the open highway is unconstitutional? Can't side with you.

  • by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) * on Sunday July 29, 2007 @11:55PM (#20038137) Journal
    Officially, the former; off the record, probably the latter. After all, they don't object to the existence of license plates, do they? Or to marking them as being on stolen cars? Or to police officers doing there due diligence in watching for stolen cars that they pass by in public.
  • by Secret Rabbit ( 914973 ) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @11:55PM (#20038141) Journal
    Let me see, tracking and (indefinitely) storing the travel patterns of EVERYONE. No that's not objectionable. Not at all...
  • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @11:55PM (#20038145) Homepage Journal
    I believe it is the cataloging the time and location of thousands of innocent people which is causing the problem.

    But after all, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.
  • by Cassius Corodes ( 1084513 ) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @11:56PM (#20038153)
    Probably the fact that they can keep track of the travels of anyone caught in these cameras - which could be misused to blackmail etc. I can see the benefit of this - but there needs to be controls on it so that they are deleted from the system after a while and that access is carefully monitored. Given the government's usual incompetence I can see why the ACLU is not very trusting.
  • by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) * on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:01AM (#20038193) Journal
    I'm guessing the bit they're worried about is the indefinite storage of the GPS-location of every licence-plate ever seen by the system. I'm not really sure you can liken that to an officer saying "I think I saw that guy 3 months ago". Effectively, the police are keeping tabs on cars (and by extension, people driving those cars), in an automated and later-searchable manner.

    If the idea is "innocent until guilty", then the innocent ought to be given the *rights* of an innocent man, not just have lip-service paid to it. One of those rights is not to be constantly under surveillance by police - in that respect it's very similar to having to produce "papers" at checkpoints, and having the checkpoint-cop record your movement for later use. The 4th amendment may be what they're thinking is being infringed - is it reasonable for the cops to be constantly checking your details, or should there be some level of expected result before they are allowed to do so ?


  • Re:explain to me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wavicle ( 181176 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:01AM (#20038195)
    Because the police have no right to track me when I have committed no crime and am not wanted in connection with a criminal investigation.
  • this is long lost (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:02AM (#20038197)
    The ACLU is wrong in this case. They're complaining about a technology that is an inevitable result of requiring vehicle licenses and driver's licenses.

    If they can make you have a license plate, then they can read it. You people lost this battle a long time ago.
  • Misleading summery (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TechwoIf ( 1004763 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:04AM (#20038209) Homepage
    It does not say if _all_ or just the ones that one on the "hit" list plates are "tagged" and recorded. I would object to this system IF it recored _all_ plates and locations. Recording just the ones that came back with warrants or stolen I have no problem with. And would disagree with the ACLU on this one.
  • by SocietyoftheFist ( 316444 ) * on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:04AM (#20038211)
    So police looking at license plates is unreasonable search? I don't think so, it is a publicly viewable item. They are not taking extraorindary steps to view the license plate. It isn't hidden behind your closed drapes in your house, it is in full view on the road. I see nothing wrong with this as long as only license plates matching stolen vehicles or cars registered to felons with warrants for their arrest are logged and cataloged. I see absolutely no problem with that at all.
  • Problem? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by clarkkent09 ( 1104833 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:04AM (#20038219)
    I figure from the article that it looks for certain plates (stolen cars etc) and only the matches are being stored, not every plate scanned. At least, that would make sense, article doesn't really make it clear. If so, how is this different than a cop seeing a "wanted" licence plate on a car and recording the time and place where it was seen? He has to look at a lot of plates but he disregards those that don't match. If every single plate scanned is stored with GPS data then obviously its a different story
  • by gbulmash ( 688770 ) * <semi_famous@ y a hoo.com> on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:07AM (#20038239) Homepage Journal
    Actually, if I owned an office building that abutted a freeway, I could legally set up cameras and record the license plate numbers of every car that passed, and no one could do anything. I could even go and sell that information on the internet or charge people to search the database of license plates recorded. And no one could stop me (muahaha?).

    If you're out in a public place, overtly displaying identifiable information, there's no law saying I cannot record that. And let's face it, if you're a law abiding citizen, you're in more danger from the databases being kept by private credit reporting agencies than the ones being kept by law enforcement agencies.

    - Greg
  • by Wavicle ( 181176 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:14AM (#20038301)
    You're out on the open road. You have no reasonable expectation of privacy. No civil right is being violated, IMO.

    The police have no legitimate interest in tracking the driving patterns of people who have not committed a crime and are not under suspicion of having committed a crime.

    This is the sort of database that is ripe for use for illegal and unconstitutional purposes:
    * Have you been making too many trips to the anti-war rally? Oh, sorry, we're going to have to deny you entrance to this political forum for, uh, 'security' reasons.
    * Oh, thank you for your job application... oh dear, it seems you were parked for a while at the planned parenthood, we don't hire your type.
  • Re:explain to me (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wavicle ( 181176 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:20AM (#20038339)
    If you are of no interest to the police, then your records will just be sitting on a disk somewhere.

    Oh, of course! If I have nothing to hide, then I have nothing to worry about, right?

    What if I become a person of interest to my spouse during divorce proceedings? Then the database potentially becomes a tool to punish me, not for something illegal I may have done, but for something immoral. Great, so giving right of review of our morality to the police is good why?
  • by anagama ( 611277 ) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:23AM (#20038371) Homepage
    There is a difference between catching criminals and creating a database of the travel patterns of presumably innocent people.

    My initial reaction was "that sounds neat" but by the time I got through even just the summary, it was obvious that creating a database of everyone's travel patterns is not the right way to run the system. Perhaps 10 years hence, you take a different route to work for whatever reason, later that night you get a knock on your door and then: "Sorry to bother you Mr. Jones but we see you deviated from your usual route. Care to explain?" 10 years after that, you have to file travel plans. "Papers please." Yeah, call me a nutter.
  • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) * on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:26AM (#20038379) Journal
    It's the slipper slope that comes with something like this in the hands of the government.

    Ah yes, the slippery slope argument. Hell, if you are going to use it, USE IT! Why not block the police use of patrol cars, guns, computers, substations since they can be abused. Hell, go all out! Why should the mayor have his own personal army to suppress the public? Maybe we should block the formation of a police force entirely since it is very possible for the mayor to abuse the power to gain even MORE power.

    Wait. The people elect the mayor. The people could abuse the power of the polling station for ill gotten gains....

  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:28AM (#20038411)

    yeah, but i can sit on my front porch and do the same thing legally.

    Yes, and you'd be a creep for doing it.

    i guess people only have a problem when it's law enforcement that can do the same things i can legally do.

    Probably because people don't want the police getting too accustomed to acting like creeps all the time.

  • by Harmonious Botch ( 921977 ) * on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:29AM (#20038415) Homepage Journal
    I won't object to it as long as I can recored the location and activities of the cops, and store that indefinitely
  • Re:explain to me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Le Marteau ( 206396 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:31AM (#20038429) Journal
    At least in my state, driving an automobile is not a RIGHT, but a privilege granted by the department of revenue

    You actually believe that? That getting from point A to point B in the way society has designed it (i.e. by driving) is a PRIVILEGE? Welcome to the police state, I guess, where doing anything except breathing requires governmental permission.
  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:32AM (#20038433) Journal
    "They're automatically tracking everyone and keeping a log of that tracking indefinitely."

    It does not say whether or not that is the case, the key phrase in your quotes is is "All matches". Are they talking about a match with a wanted plate, or does "match" mean the device was able to read the plate.

    It's impossible to distinguish between "OMG 1984!" and "Hey they found my car!" from what is written in TFA.
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:33AM (#20038439)

    But claim that the police recording license plates on the open highway is unconstitutional? Can't side with you.
    I disagree. The fourth amendment states:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    I think that a surveillance system which magnifies normal abilities beyond anything humanly achievable must, by definition, raise questions of being an unreasonable search and seizure. If it is not reasonable to expect a person or an affordable group of people to achieve the same results, then it should be considered an unreasonable search.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:34AM (#20038445)
    The issue isn't the reading of license plates. If they were to do that, scan for the tags of interest (stolen, wanted, etc.) and then immediateley and automatically discard all of the non-matches, then I would have no problem with it. Assuming all of those steps could be independently verified at any time of course.

    The issue is the systematic reading and databasing of *all* license plates with a timestamp and geotag and storing that data indefinitely. It may not be illegal. But it should be - as part of the often claimed, but non-existent right to privacy. The state has no business tracking the whereabouts of law abiding citizens - it's rife for abuse at many levels.
  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:34AM (#20038449) Journal
    Like the wiretapping, the real issue is the lose of privacy and damage to our rights. In particular, the storage of plates numbers with locations is bothersome. I do not like the idea that the police can recall where any car was at. But if the system tries to locate a positive and then discards all else, well, it sounds useful to me.

    As to the fast scan of all cars that the vehicle passes, personally, I am trying to figure out why the ACLU is fighting that. For the life of me, I would think that it makes things safer since it allows police to drive and observe other issues rather than pay heavy attention to cars.
  • Re:explain to me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:41AM (#20038515)

    If you are of no interest to the police, then your records will just be sitting on a disk somewhere.
    If I am of no interest to the police, they should not be tracking me in the first place. Convenience is not a strong enough reason to abrogate our basic rights.
  • Thank You ACLU. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Irvu ( 248207 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:54AM (#20038625)
    This is one of those "boiling frog" issues that isn't very sexy or photogenic, one of the issues that many people will ignore but that sets a very very dangerous precedent. Yes the plates are state issued and yes they are intended to be viewable but the practice of indefinitely logging the plates of innocent people, just because, is wrong and must be stopped now. If allowed to run the precedent will be set for tracking credit card purchase federally, tagging and logging your presence in all public places and more.

    Yes they caught 111 felons but that could be done without logging the innocent people.

    I see this as another instance of IT vendors riding over the rights of citizens in their endless goal to make a buck.
  • by ghettoimp ( 876408 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @01:01AM (#20038693)
    A system like this sounds really useful for locating stolen cars and finding wanted criminals. It's a great idea in theory, and apparently it's effective. And if stealing a car becomes synonymous with getting caught, so much the better. But the lawsuit is also a good idea. There's no reason to build a database of "innocent" license plates. The government shouldn't be snooping on its citizens, and it's easy to imagine this information being abused. Maybe you trust this administration, but can you trust the next one, and the one after that?

    Well what's the big deal? So what if a government goon knows who my friends are, how often we hang out, which political meetings I attend, whether I attend narcotics anonymous meetings or see a psichiatrist, how often I buy liquor or go to sex shops, etc. I'm nobody important, just a working stiff like everyone else. And this is all small-potatoes stuff anyhow.

    But it's precisely because I'm nobody important that it isn't a big deal to me. I don't have to worry about retribution after I leak an important story about wrongdoing at my company or government agency to the media. I'm not a journalist trying to protect the confidentiality of my sources. I'm not a candidate running for office and having all my movements for the past thirty years scrutinized by the establishment party. I'm not an undercover officer or overzealous district attorney worried about being outed or targetted by the mob. These people do important work, and it's important to protect them.

    The best way to prevent the database from being abused is not to build it. You can still find criminals and stolen cars, and use the system to fight crime. But citizens who haven't done anything wrong shouldn't be tracked everywhere they go, since it might be used against them for political reasons.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2007 @01:07AM (#20038729)
    This is a close cousin of sensors that automatically issue speeding tickets or snap pictures of cars going through red lights.

    Speeding kills people, going through red lights kills people, felons on the run kill people. I have no doubt that these technologies help to get less people killed so they can go on to die of smoking related causes instead.

    The problem is I'm selfish and I don't want to live in a world where everything I do is monitored and scruitinized by skynet. It gives me the creeps to just think of it. There has got to be at least a reasonable chance of me driving to the DMV to get an expired license or tags renewed without being pulled over on my way there.

    Theres no shortage of modern films that feature the watchful all seeing eye of the monitored society taken to extremes but ah how much of what people do anymore can't be put togeather by matching up datasets, ccd footage and fancy math.

    To be honest the very capacity rather than the actual implementation / how its used scares me the most.

    Who knows one day some real-life hero might need to break a few laws to save the world from some bad actors just like in the movies.

    Technology in many respects represents an aggregation of power that we all need to be wary of.
  • Meh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sykopomp ( 1133507 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @01:11AM (#20038755)
    If they just put an expiration date on data collected from non-stolen vehicles belonging to non-felons, I have absolutely no opposition to this measure. As has been mentioned before, this is just very efficient data collection of already public data done by a tool that is being directly operated by a human (the patrol car has a cop behind its wheel). This means it's not a weird passive voyeurism like we get with cameras, and is certainly much more limited as far as its observational scope goes. And if it makes finding a stolen car that much more efficient, I'm all for it.
  • by c_forq ( 924234 ) <forquerc+slash@gmail.com> on Monday July 30, 2007 @01:23AM (#20038835)
    But if the system tries to locate a positive and then discards all else, well, it sounds useful to me.

    Storing the data has some uses though. what if it is 12 hours before you discover your car is stolen? With the stored info they may be able to quickly figure out where the thieves went with the car. Also this may be useful in the case of kidnapping, if they can figure out a license plate number after the report. While I think there should be an expiration date, I think there are some very good reasons for a certain length of data retention.
  • by mosch ( 204 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @01:32AM (#20038895) Homepage
    I'm surprised by the way this system works.

    I implemented a system that does basically this, as custom development for a police department in a small American city. It's worked fantastically well, but they had a lot of specific restrictions.

    They didn't want fully automated scanning, because apparently it causes all sorts of legal troubles if you run some plates (undercovers, celebrities, people who are later stalked/attacked).

    Also, they didn't want to geotag the searches (even though all of the data was available) because they specifically didn't want to build a database of people's locations outside their duties.

    And lastly, they didn't want permanent data storage of *anything*. They wanted two years, to comply with various regulations and to allow time for investigation into abuses, but no more. After that, they wanted it gone forever.

    As such, I find it very surprising that a police department would even have interest in building a tool that is so incredibly ripe for abuse, when it is likely to open them to all sorts of litigation, as evidenced by the ACLU lawsuit.

    And as to the tools who claim the ACLU is just interested in freeing criminals, I'd remind you that the ACLU simply cares about rights, even though sometimes that's unpopular. They're willing to fight to let you quote the Bible in your yearbook [aclu.org], to prevent 13 year olds from being arrested for writing on their desks [aclu.org] and as this article notes, they are also against recorded surveillance of innocent drivers.

    It's telling that nearly all of the right-wingers in this thread have distorted the ACLU's actual complaint (that surveillance databases are being built against innocent drivers) and have replaced it with a claim that somehow the ACLU is against running plates altogether or direct claims that the ACLU is pro-criminal.
  • by cbreaker ( 561297 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @01:38AM (#20038927) Journal
    Privacy matters to me, and apparently matters to you too. If we allow these types of systems to creep into our society on the merit of "it will savez the childrens!!" type arguments, with no objections, then it will be a sad day when the powers that be finally hook everything together and can pinpoint your exact location, with live video feeds, no matter where you go. Privacy is difficult to quantify, but it's a very real thing that I highly value.

    Imagine a world where jaywalking gets you automatically direct-withdrawal fines from your bank account? And how about when your credit score goes down because you took a right-on-red where you weren't supposed to, therefore marking you as "risky?"

    I don't think those things are very far fetched. They don't just use these new systems to catch offenders; they store the data and can use it against you at any time for the rest of your life. It'll be awesome to be rejected for a job because I was tracked walking around NYC on a day I called in sick, 10 years ago.
  • by TheVelvetFlamebait ( 986083 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @01:40AM (#20038939) Journal
    The roads are a mess in terms of law enforcement IMHO. It seems to be ingrained into our society's psyche that it is OK to break traffic laws when it suits you.

    What do you do if you're late? Speed and drive recklessly, of course.
    Really want to do a U-turn on a no-U-turn street, and there's pretty much no traffic? Just do one anyway.
    What do you do if you see a speed limit sign? Adjust your speed to the limit plus 10%, because the cops won't bust you for it.
    What happens if there is a person in front of you who's obeying the speed limit, or who stops at stop signs, or who refuses to illegally overtake? You tailgate them, flash your lights, and/or beep the horn.

    People seem to expect, as their right, to break traffic laws, and any increased police activity on the roads is painted as "revenue raising", or policemen trying to meet quotas, or even just power tripping. And since the behaviour is so ubiquitous, the responses are loud enough so that any serious plans to reverse this trend are considered political suicide. So yes, if you don't have anything to hide, then you don't have anything to fear. The problem is, almost everyone has something to hide when it comes to the roads, and so these sort of measures will never succeed. I wish them luck though.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @01:44AM (#20038969) Homepage Journal
    Racial profiling works. I don't see why there's a big deal about it. If some 49 year old white dude fitting my description commits a crime, and I walk past a cop who has a description of the perp, and he doesn't give me a second look, there's something seriously wrong with that.

    That's not what racial profiling is. What you're describing is a situation where the cops are (or should be) looking for someone who committed a crime who fits a particular description, and of course race is part of that description. I don't think anyone objects to that. Racial profiling is when cops harass people of a particular race when no crime has been committed, just because they think people of that race might be criminals.

    Not racial profiling: "Suspect is a white male, approximately 50 years of age ... hey! There he goes!"

    Racial profiling: "What're you doing driving around in this neighborhood this time of night, whitey?"

    Don't tell me you can't see the difference.
  • by schwaang ( 667808 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:00AM (#20039067)
    Exactly. That's why we should have checkpoints at major crossings into and out of cities or across state lines. You want the privelege of driving? Well give us a cheek swab for DNA and a rapid drug/alcohol test while were at it. We'll catch a lot more felons that way.

    Also, why the hell don't they have x-ray scanners like they use to find drugs in trucks in Afghanistan. I mean, it's not really a search if they don't open your trunk, and besides driving is a privilege to begin with. I'm sure they'd find illegal weapons down south a lot of illegal aliens that way.

    Face it, a police state is the only way for lawful people to be safe from the scumbags. So call your Congressmen and demand road checkpoints with DNA matching, instant drug/alcohol testing, and x-ray scanning. Because driving is a privilege and not a right.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:05AM (#20039091)
    Racial profiling works. I don't see why there's a big deal about it. If some 49 year old white dude fitting my description commits a crime, and I walk past a cop who has a description of the perp, and he doesn't give me a second look, there's something seriously wrong with that.

      Except that that's not what's meant by racial profiling.

    Now just stopping people because of the way they look is dumb.

      Now THAT'S racial profiling. It's not when the police say "we have a reported burglary by a tall blond man in blue jeans in the upper west side" and they stop and check out any tall blond guys in blue jeans in the area of the theft. It'd be racial profiling if someone "figured out"* that tall blond men were 36% more likely to be burglars than short japanese men, and so they started routinely stopping tall blond men to see if they could find anything on them to arrest them for.

      The latter is wrong as all hell, which is why people are pissed off by it.

      It's strange how people argue against certain things in politics by redefining what they're arguing against until it's something easily ridiculed. Sort of a straw idea, rather than a straw man. You see this a lot in arguments over "hate crime" laws, wherein people suddenly become too incredibly stupid to remember that our laws take motive into account for sentencing, because motive tells us about the likelihood of recidivism.
      It's why we have laws against killing people that range from first degree murder down to involuntary manslaughter. Hate crime laws are not meant to apply to someone attacking a person who "happened" to be jewish or something. They're meant to add jail time if, say, a Neo-nazi assaults a jewish person because of racist motives.

      * "Figured out" in the same way that French scientists "figured out" that Frenchmen have the biggest brains, followed by Americans, and British people third -- whereas British scientists working independently "figured out" that Brits have the biggest brains, followed by Americans, followed by French, etc.
  • Re:explain to me (Score:1, Insightful)

    by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:07AM (#20039105)
    just because a society does something in particular, it does not make it a right, something that you should have access to no matter what.

    Using public roads is something granted to you by society under certain conditions, hence it's a PRIVILEGE you, like many morons today, have been so babied and protected that you don't know the difference between a right and a privilege.

    LIFE is a right, SPEECH is a right - are you really comparing these fundamental freedoms to your car? use your fucking legs you lazy asshole.

  • by xsadar ( 627057 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:10AM (#20039121)

    I would object to this system IF it recored _all_ plates and locations. Recording just the ones that came back with warrants or stolen I have no problem with.

    Sorry. If you read the article to the very end you find this:

    Every plate being scanned won't be tossed away but stored for future use. Once a warrant is issued on a plate, officers can pull up the previously scanned data, using coordinates on a map to pinpoint the exact location and time of the car when it was identified.

    Kind of dumb that they put this information at the END of the article instead of in the headline. I thought there was not a problem until I got to the very end of the article. Still not sure it's illegal on technical grounds, but definitely not right for them to be tracking innocent people this way.
  • by Wakko Warner ( 324 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:13AM (#20039135) Homepage Journal
    While PERHAPS this could be used to hinder said right, the REALITY is it does not. Until it does, you have no real reason to complain other than being overly paranoid.

    That may be the fucking stupidest thing ever said.
  • by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:22AM (#20039189) Homepage
    If the idea is "innocent until guilty", then the innocent ought to be given the *rights* of an innocent man, not just have lip-service paid to it. One of those rights is not to be constantly under surveillance by police ...

    No one is under surveilance since the are not being followed nor is their private space being violated. Random encounters in public is not surveillance.

    ... in that respect it's very similar to having to produce "papers" at checkpoints ...

    No, it is very different. You are not stopped or otherwise interfered with.

    ... and having the checkpoint-cop record your movement for later use. The 4th amendment may be what they're thinking is being infringed ...

    The 4th is about search and seizure, neither of which is occuring here , the 4th says nothing about the right not to be noticed in public:
    "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures ..."

    ... is it reasonable for the cops to be constantly checking your details, or should there be some level of expected result before they are allowed to do so ?

    I understand your sentiment and it is a creepy thing for the police to do, but your misrepresentations and exaggeration are hurting your otherwise legitimate question.
  • by janrinok ( 846318 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:26AM (#20039205)

    I don't think those things are very far fetched.

    In which case I believe that you are a little bit paranoid. Do you use a credit card? They can trace your movements based on your expenses. Do you own property or pay taxes? Guess how much information those two facts give to the 'system'. Do you have a passport? Gosh, they could use that to track your movements across national boundaries. 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? That's not much different from knowing where your car is. I assume, therefore, that you will destroy your passport, cell phone and driving licence, stop paying taxes, sell your belongings and begin to use cash immediately. You will enjoy returning to the stone age because you will be a completely anonymous.

    The time to be up in arms is when the systems are abused. Then, you should take whatever action is appropriate to have the situation remedied and to prevent re-occurrence. If someone deserves to be punished, then so be it. But don't lie awake at night worrying about what might happen. There are enough real problems in the world today without making some up.

  • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:28AM (#20039239)
    The time to be up in arms is when the systems are abused.

    When it's too late IOW.
  • by Redlazer ( 786403 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:54AM (#20039369) Homepage
    I dunno, i find the lack of racial profiling has gone too far. It IS more common for islamic extremists to be, i dunno, islamic, and therefore, if there is other suspicious behaviour, i see no problem with them being inspected.

    The problem is that rather than officials being free to inspect anyone who is acting suspciously (with problems with that basic concept aside), they are virtually not allowed to inspect an islamic person who is acting suspiciously.

    It all boils down to the bizarre act of giving people who where treated poorly in the past or present, as a race, sex, or culture, special priveleges.

    Back on track, I can't really see why this is a big problem. I do think it is POSSIBLE to become a problem - but as someone else said, lets worry about it when it actually does become a problem worth preventing. Arguably, it may then be too late - but we cant go around preventing good ideas just because an abuse of it can be destructive. Because really, anything can be abused, and many of them, to great detriment.


  • by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @03:13AM (#20039455) Homepage
    ah, so I have the right to obfuscate my license plate if no human police officer is looking at it at the moment? ...

    No, your department of motor vehicle regulations probably prohibit obscuring your license plate at any time. Also driving itself is not a right, it is a privelage. Your car would be an "effect" in the 4th ammendment context so searching the interior of your car would involve a right.

    ... or my appearance to any surveillance camera so long as I'm not committing a crime?

    Most likely. However wearing a mask in certain contexts may create probable cause that would justify a search, and people and merchants would certainly be within their rights to refuse service in many contexts. So the mask may be counterproductive.
  • by Propaganda13 ( 312548 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @04:10AM (#20039697)
    The legallity of the action being performed doesn't change just because a computer lets them do more of it or do it faster

    Though sometimes additional laws are passed making the "enhanced activity" illegal. For instance, internet hunting. It's illegal to hunt over the internet in some states even though the computer is just letting me do more of it or do it faster.

    In your view, it would be perfectly acceptable to have every 10 ft a pole with chemical and radiological detectors, video and sound (with disclaimers posted) recording equipment tracking everything in public with computers running facial recognition software with a mounted weapons system and a mobile restraint system.

    Just because something is technically legal doesn't mean it's right. For a living in an ex-colony that overthrew its legal English government, you sure want to live in a police state.
  • Not more money (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Derling Whirvish ( 636322 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @04:26AM (#20039785) Journal

    I would like to see school systems that provide the same resources to students in inner cities (who are mostly minorities) that are provided to richer students in the suburbs.
    The school system with the highest spending per student schooled is the DC public school system. More money won't help.
  • by QuickFox ( 311231 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @04:31AM (#20039807)
    What, her life depends on the medicine, and she cuts it that close, getting her stock filled very late the same night she runs out? Why cut it so close? Is this some strange kind of suicide attempt?

    I can well understand why the cop didn't think your story seemed likely. Few people are that stupid when their life is at stake.
  • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @05:30AM (#20040067)
    Well OK that was unprofessional of me to snap at Someone. Who. Writes. This. Way.

    The relevant question as far as the Fourth Amendment is concerned, is whether the increased surveillance constitutes a search. Because your Fourth Amendment rights aren't forfeited when you leave your house. Ordinarily a policeman can conduct ordinary surveillance of plates on a public road- within human ability- which is one of the parameters under which the legislature and the courts defined the limits of police surveillance. It has still always been possible, if you behaved yourself, to travel on a public road anonymously, and to get where you were going without anyone knowing.

    But not anymore, if the police can conduct this ordinary surveillance with superhuman ability. Many people here are looking at the legality of each atomic operation in isolation, and ignoring the fact that thousands of them can soon be carried out each second- a sudden, vast increase in surveillance efficiency. There may be no way soon to avoid traveling by car without having the government record where you are. We will suddenly find out a lot of stuff about a lot of people. This is a vast new development in the power of law enforcement, and the legislature and judiciary should both be expected to react in some way. The law often fails to prohibit things before they become humanly possible to do- it has to be maintained occasionally.

    The right to privacy was originally a right derived from Common Law. We all have heard the expression "An Englishman's home is his Castle." This was the rough summary of the right to privacy enjoyed by freemen in England. Of course, it was an ideal, and was not perfectly executed in practice, but the same could be said of much that goes on in this country.

    In the US, much of our law is based on a combination of British Common Law, Statutory, and Constitutional law. And, once a statute is written that enumerates what was previously common law, the statutory meaning takes precedence. The right to privacy was one of those unspoken, but widely accepted theories of British Common Law. But with the publication and ratification of the US Constitution, many areas of Common Law became statutory.

    Nowadays, the right to privacy is a statutory one, carved out of the intersection of individual rights derived from the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments. For instance, the 5th Amendment gives you the right not to self-incriminate, the 4th gives you protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the 14th and 6th amendments insure that you have due process rights and can't be sent to a prison in Cuba. In the middle of the 20th century, the USSC began to interpret the nexus of these rights as creating an area of individual activity that should be free from government interference. Some of the more famous cases, Griswold v. Connecticut and progeny, Roe v. Wade and progeny, found that while the right to privacy was not enumerated, it was implied, in the same way that if you say "I consult with my attorney Monday through Sunday," you have implied that you also talk to your attorney Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.

    While it may be true that you can't travel on public roads with an expectation of privacy, it was always implied that you can travel in public without an expectation of having your travel being monitored. Especially not with God-like powers. Nobody even envisioned such a thing. And let's be realistic here. The only conceivable purpose of a monitoring system designed to track motorists in their daily movements is to effectively conduct surveillance on all citizens in the most effective way possible. It's clearly beyond the pale.
  • by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @06:49AM (#20040417)
    So we should get rid of the police force, as they can become corrupt? I can see where your argument is coming from, but it seems awfully short-sighted. Where do we draw the line between what's acceptable and what might go wrong in the future?
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Monday July 30, 2007 @06:53AM (#20040449) Journal
    Maybe you don't realize that there are still police in US cities who are being convicted of torturing suspects. The election for mayor didn't make a difference.

    ArcherB, be careful of loving authority too much. Whether the slope is slippery is less important than the fact that the slope trends downward.
  • by Oligonicella ( 659917 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @07:02AM (#20040507)
    Oh, horseshit. You've watched Minority Report one too many times.

    It takes time to do those things and people to see it's done even with a friggin' Cray. Orwell had an interesting vision, but it's not logistically possible.
  • by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Monday July 30, 2007 @07:47AM (#20040749) Homepage Journal

    The problem i see here is that this is a small attack on our liberty from all sides.
    By the government, or the dudes that thugged your car?
    Sample 1,000 people who've had their liberty severely curtailed by some scofflaw, and see if they don't think this is a jolly good idea.

    Overzealous cops trying to make a career for themselves with no care for the greater good of society will vigorously pursue average peaceful citizens. Their property will be seized for to pay for the inertia of the police force. Too many people's careers are involved in policing small things for this is lighten up.
    Sounds like we have a trade-off between the government and the thugs, with only a blurry line separating.
    And yet, we are supposed to feel like government intereference with health care and retirement is somehow good.
  • by DeadCatX2 ( 950953 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @08:43AM (#20041135) Journal
    On the other hand, if you know that people who are X ethnicity *and* are likely to be violating Y law, then maybe it's 'racial profiling' to stop them on the street and talk to them. More likely it's just good police work and exactly the kind of thing most police do every day.

    What happened to probable cause? That's definitely racial profiling.

    I've been profiled before. I was a teenager with long hair, and the cop demanded to search my car because I was speeding. "You must be hiding something" he said to me. I even signed the consent form to search (I had nothing to hide).

    That is not what I call good police work. That ruined my trust in the police. "To serve and protect" my ass...the cop car in Transformers had it right - "To punish and enslave"
  • by BLKMGK ( 34057 ) <morejunk4meNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Monday July 30, 2007 @09:04AM (#20041403) Homepage Journal
    I, and likely the ACLU, have no issues with the scanning - it really is just speeding up the officer's job and working more effectively. It's the data storage without deletion date that's an issue. If I've done nothing wrong why are you storing where my car was last spotted?

    I researched these systems not too long ago and the article I read had the officer dumping the data at the end of his shift. Data storage time was minimal and not part of some huge consolidated "Skynet" (to borrow another poster's appropriate term). Indeed this simply speeds up what an officer normally does - even though they aren't supposed to do it while moving. However in this case the data is apparently being kept for an extended period of time. How bad could this get? Could it be made part of public record? Will we eventually be able to look it up in Google? Bad enough I get a speeding ticket and the court date can be found posted on Google. (yes, seriously) Seems to me an argument could be made that this is "public record" too. So, maybe one day I go for a new job and my apps are rejected without my knowledge because someone looked me up and found that my car was "seen" at a local strip joint. Or abortion clinic. Or Church\Mosque. Sounds far fetched but considering some of the mashups with Google's mapping service already I wouldn't be so sure. The "predator" ones are a pretty good example of this - especially when you find out some of the crap that can get you onto those lists and how hard it is to have a mistake removed...

    Drop the data storage requirement or limit it to a SHORT period of time such that thefts could be tracked down and I'm okay with it. Watching the pseudo-Science of CSI where they can pull up a database of damned near anything to catch a thief is kewl and all but no I don't really want to live in a society where it's really that simple for Joe-Blow officer to pull up so much information on me. My reasoning being that I've met a few cops I wouldn't trust to help me across the street much less be trusted with that level of potential data access. It would only take one bad one to really make a mess and I'm quite sure there's far more than one out there...

    Take a look at how this has been deployed in Canada. I saw one picture of a highway overpass when I researched this a few months ago that was capable of reading every single tag that passed by it - for 8 lanes of traffic. Realize that this need not be just something put on an officer's car, it can be stationary units setup discreetly all over a city. Now store that data for ever more and yeah I start to get creeped out about it. IMO this slope is indeed a bit slippery. Do "we" really trust these folks to be the custodians of this data?

    P.S. Take a close look at the way things have been going in the U.K. to include speed cameras and cameras on street corners. They went so far as to propose banning GPS units that could store user input landmarks at one point because they were being used to warn of speed cameras. (lol) Sorry but the U.K. is exactly where I do *not* want to be in ten years.
  • Re:Thank You ACLU. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by greg1104 ( 461138 ) <gsmith@gregsmith.com> on Monday July 30, 2007 @09:17AM (#20041547) Homepage
    Yes they caught 111 felons but that could be done without logging the innocent people.

    What about the cases where the car passed by before it was in the database as stolen/owned by a felon? If you only stored the matches and threw away the rest of the data, you lose the ability to immediately act to capture someone the minute they enter the list. Think of the situation where someone commits a felony, then flees the area. By the time the crime is reported and they enter the database, they're long gone, but if you can then go back and see where they fled because you'd saved the data when they were "innocent" that's extremely valuable.
  • The Constitution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rajafarian ( 49150 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @09:36AM (#20041747)
    The ACLU will protect criminals at all costs, they don't care that the cars are on public roads, and that police calling them in is no different. For quite some time the ACLU has moved away from protecting the rights of people to being a liberal shill.

    Are you saying it is only liberals that care about the U.S. Constitution with its "thing" against warrantless search and seizures? The ACLU will try to make the government follow the constitution at all costs!

    Would you rather some of those rights be amended?
  • by neomunk ( 913773 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @10:08AM (#20042161)
    What you're not understanding is that these ignorant apes believe that thinking the government should be limited to the powers granted it by the constitution equals being a 'liberal shill'.

    After all, how is the president supposed to protect us from terrists if he's being held back by that "goddam piece of paper"?

    That's right, you give up a little liberty for a little security, but don't come crying when you lose both, after all you've had the warning for over 200 years.

    One final note, this whole plate scanning system will see many fascist government officials trying to pass laws allowing access to more and more databases and associated cross-references. For example, how long will it be before they start using it to decide who to pull over as being a 'high-potential criminal' or some such obnoxiousness because they are on probation/parole, or were once convicted of a felony. How about when they start linking in the crime-rates statistics from the census office and check your address? When they add in economic factors? (what the hell you doin in the well-to-do neighborhood boy, get your poor ass outta here)

    I'm a tinfoil hat wearing loony, right? Okay then, what criteria do they use to put someone on a terrorist watchlist, or a no-fly list? Oh, you don't know do you. No, you don't, because they won't tell you. Won't even tell you what can get you on a blacklist. Brought to you by the same people that scan the plates.

    I just don't understand why people have so much blind trust for other people with shiny badges on their shirts. Really now, I've had good encounters with police, I've had bad encounters with police. Some police were intelligent thoughtful people, some were drooling fucktards with guns. They are just people like you and me, some good, some bad, mostly just self-centered-kind-vaguely-good-if-its-not-to-much -bother. Oh, and with the added psychological twist of authority + physical-force-capable (especially the magical ability to call for backup, that's nearly impossible to beat). Blindly trusting that someone has your best interests in mind because of a piece of tin pinned to their shirt is ludicrous and asking me to do the same will be disappointing.
  • by trianglman ( 1024223 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @10:20AM (#20042341) Journal
    I don't know about the ACLU, but my personal objection to this is the fact that the data is being stored indefinately, thus tracking my every movement. That is an invasion of privacy. You have the right, and this has been defended in the Supreme Court, to travel anonymously. This is very important to the right to congregate freely and free speech. If this information was used immediately, a la radar guns, there wouldn't be a problem. But the fact that this information is instead aggregated and stored forever is an issue.
  • by neomunk ( 913773 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @10:22AM (#20042367)
    I hear that Saudi Arabia is really tough on crime. You should probably go check them out, sounds like your kind of government. In the mean time, keep the fuck away from my freedom. My original U.S. citizen ancestor came here a year before the country was founded to escape from goofy shits that wanted to clamp down on everything not deemed 'proper' by some asshole sitting in luxury somewhere. He fought a war and everything for that. I will too. Oh, and by the way, I'm one of those liberals who cherish (and practice!) the 2nd amendment just as much as the rest of the Bill of Rights.

    I've found those that truly hate me for my freedom, and they live right in my own country. Flag-waving Freedom-hating To-Scared-to-Live simpletons who want daddy government to protect them from their own shadows.
  • If you RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ePhil_One ( 634771 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @10:37AM (#20042569) Journal
    Every plate being scanned won't be tossed away but stored for future use. Once a warrant is issued on a plate, officers can pull up the previously scanned data, using coordinates on a map to pinpoint the exact location and time of the car when it was identified.

    So what they are doing is creating a database of where all cars have been, whether they belong to the guilty or the innocent. When I read the summary I thought, "Wow, the ACLU has crossed the line here"; which made me suspicious, usually when folks want to vilify the ACLU they leave out key facts like this one. Read the article, this tidbit is buried in the second to last paragraph and is likely key to the ACLU's concerns.

    While technically its not doing anything that crosses a line, noting plates and locations of cars in the public, technology is enabling some very concerning capabilities that need to be addressed. Distrust of the government isn't just a liberal thing, its an American thing.

  • by cbreaker ( 561297 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @11:15AM (#20043041) Journal
    "In which case I believe that you are a little bit paranoid."

    No, but I think we should all be a little cautious, don't you agree? There NEEDS to be checks and balances, and we need organizations like the ACLU to make sure our civil liberties aren't trampled.

    "Do you use a credit card? They can trace your movements based on your expenses. Do you own property or pay taxes? Guess how much information those two facts give to the 'system'. Do you have a passport? Gosh, they could use that to track your movements across national boundaries. 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"

    And every single one of those items you mention currently requires probable cause and a court approved warrant.

    The license plate scanning requires no such thing to tag me and record my movements and make it available immediately.

    "The time to be up in arms is when the systems are abused."

    When, is correct. Because it WILL BE. Why are you okay with that? I'm not. I don't want the chance to exist.
  • by teh_chrizzle ( 963897 ) <{kill-9} {at} {hobbiton.org}> on Monday July 30, 2007 @11:47AM (#20043453) Homepage

    Maybe you don't realize that there are still police in US cities who are being convicted of torturing suspects.

    and maybe you don't realize that right now there is a crack addicted satan worshiping left wing muslim scientologist waiting in the shadows to molest and murder your family and the only thing keeping you safe at night are police with the freedom to search and interrogate whomever they please.

  • Puzzling... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by C10H14N2 ( 640033 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @11:47AM (#20043461)
    ...you rarely hear people screeching about the video records and databases kept by private toll operations.

    Are they somehow inherently more trustworthy? Do people think they don't share that information with government when demanded?

    This isn't terribly different, imho.
  • Which is why the ACLU defended neo-nazis. Riiiight. The fact is that, these days, it's not about liberals versus conservatives, about the left versus the right.

    Today, the battle is between authoritarianism and liberty, and the ACLU is firmly on the side of the latter. It's not a problem that the authoritarians are masquerading as the party of conservative thought and traditional values, when in fact they support neither. Today, being on the left means simply being against authoritarianism, and for basic human rights. The ACLU having a left-leaning bias is laudable, not lamentable.
  • by L0rdJedi ( 65690 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:36PM (#20044203)
    Just because you have the freedom of movement, doesn't mean it has to be in a car. No one's stopping you from walking.
  • by Proofof. Chaos ( 1067060 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @01:53PM (#20045395)
    The way I read that is: "all liberals are criminals"
    Yeah, it's hard to believe that an organization called the "American Civil Liberties Union" would have a liberal bias.
    BTW, look up the word liberalism, and you will see that "Liberal" does not mean "Democrat". It is the idea that the individual is the most important part of society. That what is good for you and I, is more important than what is good of the nation. This is in contrast to totalitarianism, communism, and fascism; which all espouse the importance of society over the importance of the individual.
    Obviously, a liberal society is going to have more trouble catching criminals. But that is the price we pay for our freedom.
    My problem with the ACLU is that they aren't liberal enough. Sure they defend my right to surf the web (or drive) anonymously. But where are they when I decide I want to open a bar (my own private property) and put a sign on the door that says "This is not a health club, if you don't like cigarette smoke, I suggest you go somewhere else."
    I just can't wait till I get pulled over on my way to work, and hauled off to jail because of one of these cameras, because someone reported me for smoking within 20ft of the the door to a bar.
  • by multipartmixed ( 163409 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:07PM (#20045589) Homepage

    The Rights of the People are not what is written in some document. There are NATURAL rights.

    For example, I doubt I could find a document that says you have the right to breathe freely. Yet I suspect you would argue that you do.

    You must understand that codification of members of of a group does not modify the group itself.

  • Re:Bullshit. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Felix Rodriguez ( 63080 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:29PM (#20045887)
    LOL. I have a good example of my feelings:

    My last theft experience:

    Stole 2 wheels and hubcaps from my car.
    Total cost $800

    Towed my car for being on a jack without wheels (left by the robbers like that):
    $30 ticket
    $70 towing fee
    $270 damage to the car by towing.
    Police cost: $370.

    So in my instance. The police was only around half as bad as the robbers. :-)
  • by Proofof. Chaos ( 1067060 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @02:43PM (#20046111)
    I agree that the ACLU has a democratic agenda. That was my point. They are not liberal enough for my taste because they have a democratic agenda. And no, liberal and democratic should not be used interchangeably, because they don't mean the same thing at all. The economic policy of the republican party is called neo-liberalism, while that of the Democratic party is conservatism. Let's face it. We are seeing the re-writing of the English language, just like the Newspeak of "1984" Don't accept the definitions that the news media give you. They too have an agenda. Dig a little deeper and you'll find that none of the powers that be have your best interests at heart.
  • by ccmay ( 116316 ) on Monday July 30, 2007 @05:16PM (#20048709)
    Number one, the "goddam piece of paper" quote is a fabrication. [journalisnt.com] Bush never said that, but there hasn't been an article on Slashdot (or Digg, or Kos, or you name it) in the past month that hasn't it included it. It is now a mere talisman of bien-pensant liberal groupthink.

    Number two, until the Left starts taking the Second Amendment, Ninth Amendment, and Tenth Amendment seriously, I'm not going to take their pious declarations of uniquely tender love for the Bill of Rights seriously.


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