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"Mobile Plate Hunter" Cameras Raise Questions 580

The Washington Post has a story on "Minority Report"-style license-plate scanners that mount on police cars. They are the size of softballs, cost $25K, and can scan and run thousands of plates a day through the local Motor Vehicle Administration database. The easy mission creep these devices encourage is summarized in the article: "Initially purchased to find stolen cars, a handful of so-called tag readers are in use across the Washington region to catch not just car thieves, but also drivers who neglected or failed their emissions inspections or let their insurance policies lapse. The District and Prince George's County use them to enforce parking rules... 'I just think it makes us a lot more effective and a lot more efficient in how our time is being used,' [a senior detective] said." The article doesn't mention what happens to the data on legal plates. Suppose the DHS decides it wants a permanent archive of who was where, when?
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"Mobile Plate Hunter" Cameras Raise Questions

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  • Efficiency. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @08:53PM (#24451981)
    'I just think it makes us a lot more effective and a lot more efficient in how our time is being used,' [a senior detective] said.

    Mindless seeking towards some arbitrary level of "efficiency" (which is never achieved, requiring yet more investment in equipment and technology and more loss of civil liberties) should not be the primary function of law enforcement.
  • by Iphtashu Fitz ( 263795 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @08:59PM (#24451999)

    As long as technology like this is used only for identifying stolen cars, cars with expired registrations, insurance, etc. I'm perfectly fine with it. I like the idea of making sure cars are properly registered, insured, inspected, etc. because I'm the only safe driver out there and everybody else is a terrible driver! Seriously, though, driving is a privilege, and if you want that privilege then you need to make sure your car is safe (inspected) and insured in the event of an accident with another drive.

    Where I get concerned is if, as the submission mentions, is if the police, feds, etc. decide to start using this to track people randomly. I recall reading an article about this technology a few years ago and it indicated that license plate data wasn't archived in any way. The camera just snaps a picture of the plate, uses image recognition to determine the numbers & letters, then does a quick database search to see if it's stolen, etc. then discards the data if no match is found. One issue I recall in the article I read was that it wasn't 100% accurate, so if a potential match was found it would display it for the officer in the car to make the final determination. If the technology still isn't 100% accurate then simply storing results wouldn't be all that useful since you couldn't rely on it. But if they've improved the accuracy then it certainly wouldn't be too difficult to start doing that...

    Having said all that, if you're concerned about this then you might as well just stay locked in your home for the rest of your life. The growing use of security cameras means many people are caught on video numerous times a day. Cameras are being used more and more to help deal with traffic congestion in major cities, so they can already track cars that way. And most toll roads now let you use transponders to pay without stopping, and all that data can easily track you as well. Add to all that the fact that cellular phones can be tracked if you have your phone on, GPS units in cars may cache data that can be recovered, etc.

    So if you don't want to be tracked then don't ever use a cell phone, gps, drive on toll roads, or drive through any cities or other areas where traffic cameras are used....

  • Re:Poor analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pennidren ( 1211474 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @09:05PM (#24452045)
    You ever run someone down with your house?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02, 2008 @09:12PM (#24452089)
    I sure hope your vigilante attitude doesn't get me killed. Maybe I'll look up your plate when you're enacting your validated revenge and enact my own.
  • Re:Poor analysis (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @09:17PM (#24452109) Homepage Journal
    Just like your social security number was never meant to be used outside of the social security system. Let's be honest here. A lot of us write software, and not just exclusive to that group, we have all experienced this phenomenon:

    Just about every project grows well beyond it's initial purpose.
  • Re:It's misnamed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @09:25PM (#24452163) Journal
    Well blocking street cameras would be easy. Just put a film over the plate that blocks visibility from above but not from a straight on view (like those screens people put on their computer monitors that block viewing it from the sides). However, having these things on an actual police car is more sinister. However, assuming that the system looks for the plate in a specific location on a car, you could always take it off and put it in your back window or something to throw it off...
  • by Free the Cowards ( 1280296 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @09:28PM (#24452185)

    Unless you're driving a van, you can check your "blind" spots by turning your head. Certainly worked when I've driven a Grand Prix, although it was a while ago and maybe you had a newer model with extra large posts or something. But if you're just checking your mirrors and not moving your head, you have only yourself to blame.

  • I don't understand (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AceofSpades19 ( 1107875 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @09:28PM (#24452187)
    whats so bad about this exactly?, people that do this stuff are breaking rules. I mean, catching people who failed emission tests is good for the environment and catching people without insurance is also a good thing. Its like where I live, people were mad when the cops had radar on the highway, and the people were saying its just a revenue generator, when speeding can kill people, and catching speeders stops people from getting killed. So can someone explain why this is so bad?
  • Re:It's misnamed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Saturday August 02, 2008 @09:32PM (#24452213) Homepage Journal
    Ok, your pedantic point is correct and noted.
    Now, over in the common sense corner, how many people do you know with enough liquidity to cover more than a minor fender-bender who lack proper insurance (or a bond, as allowed in some states).
    I'm guessing the answer is a small-ish number.
  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @09:39PM (#24452269)

    Exactly. It is the laws that are the problem. No law should exist that you don't want enforced 100% of the time.

    Selective enforcement or lax enforcement encourage injustice and allow government power to grow quietly.

    If we had 100% enforcement, the majority would support freedom. Would-be tyrants are in the majority now -- they think it's cool to use government power against people they don't like to promote their tyrannical preferences.

  • Virtual Papers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @09:43PM (#24452303) Homepage Journal

    This isn't much different then demanding one's papers on the street randomly, 'just to check you out', even when you are just minding your own business.

    This is 'presumed guilty' at its finest.

  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @09:44PM (#24452309)

    i'm just saying those of us on 4 wheels are driving flawed machines.

    Blind spots are serious business. I always check it, wait 3 more seconds, and check it again.

    35% of the time, someone was there.

    It's very important not to hang near the rear quarter panels for an extended period of time. move up toward the doors, or back behind the vehicle by about 7 feet.

    I always do the same.

  • by BLKMGK ( 34057 ) <> on Saturday August 02, 2008 @09:50PM (#24452343) Homepage Journal

    If this isn't scary you aren't using your imagination. Picture this, some dumbass blowhard gets it in their head that storing ALL of this data is a good idea. Why? Well because when some little kid gets snatched and everyone goes crazy looking for the guy who supposedly did it they can lookup where in the world this vehicle has been seen before in addition to having all of these devices look for the tag. Hey then one day someone with access decides they want to know where their wife goes while they are at work.... Keep going, maybe a politician wants to know where someone who opposes him goes. the list is ENDLESS. do not forget that while these devices are being advertised as being used on police cars there's NO REASON why they cannot also be used in fixed emplacements. Ponder that the next time you drive under an overpass, overhead street sign, or in my area red lights that have little cams pointed down next to them. Many cities now employ red light cameras, traffic cameras, and surveillance cameras - how hard to employ these too exactly?

    Watch this vid and be VERY afraid -> []

  • by linuxwrangler ( 582055 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @09:52PM (#24452355)

    To me there is a critical distinction between two scenarios.

    In the first instance, the device has an on-board list of suspect plates (stolen, warrants, etc.) and alerts the officer when one is detected. Officers have lists of local stolen cars and routinely run plates of vehicles "of interest" anyway. In this use, the device would not be used to store any observed plates - it only alerts an officer of the presence of a plate already associated with a violation of the law.

    In one respect, this reduces bias. An officer can't run every plate he/she sees so there is always some conscious or sub-conscious profiling going on. My guess is that plates of cars driven by young black males are run far more often than those of middle-aged white females with a kid in the back seat. An automatic plate scanner doesn't care.

    And personally, I don't have a lot of sympathy for people who are "merely" uninsured or belching smog. I want those drivers off the road. Now.

    There was a recent crash on the corner by my house - flipped a small SUV over onto the sidewalk where I often walk with my daughter. In that case, the driver had expired registration due to lack of insurance, had actually been pulled over 5-minutes prior to the accident, but was unfortunately let off with a warning and, now running late to work, blew a stop sign causing the accident.

    In the second instance, the devices are installed on vehicles or near roadways and store all plates and a timestamp of when they passed. This type of tracking should be outlawed and if employeed despite being illegal, should not be admissable as evidence in any civil or criminal proceding.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @09:54PM (#24452373)

    Like the article said: What happens when this system is expanded to track people's legal movements? Put up enough of these cameras and one can track all vehicles moving into/out of various sectors of a city. Look at London.

    What scares the hell out of me is how readily our government will sell this data to private concerns. Anything to boost revenue. What happens if your competitor pays the local police department to place a camera in front of your businesses parking lot and generate a customer list? Your health insurance provider can get a list of people who frequent bars. A foreign government can get a list of all the cars parked at a defense contractor. There are many ways this information could be abused.

  • Re:It's misnamed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neokushan ( 932374 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @10:02PM (#24452421)

    And what do you do when they pass a law to make obscuring your license plate (even if only for electronic devices) illegal?
    Rather than waste energy avoiding the problem of these cameras, I dare say your energy would be better spent fighting their use all together.

  • Re:It's misnamed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FatdogHaiku ( 978357 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @10:06PM (#24452443)
    I know people that "drive dirty" (i.e. no insurance or expired tags or license), without exception they all also has a chemical or alcohol abuse problem... and that's the last people you want on the same road as you. I also know some very poor people that manage to maintain their insurance, paying by the month. So I have to agree with you, bad as I hate paying that insurance bill, I want the people that can do me damage to also be insured... and I'm OK with automatically checking that. In the end, freedom only works if free people act in a responsible manner. If you don't like a law or the way it is enforced, change the people running the show... don't expect wonderful advances in information handling to be disregarded by governments, they are just people that work for you, make new rules for them to follow... or they will.
  • Re:It's misnamed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Torvaun ( 1040898 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @10:09PM (#24452457)

    Use a bunch of IR LEDs. Cameras see IR, eyes don't.

  • Re:Efficiency. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mixmatch ( 957776 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @10:13PM (#24452477) Homepage
    Certainly, but what is more efficient, investing $25k on a device, plus man hours, to catch people with minor infractions and go through all the paperwork involved in forcing compliance, or managing those cases in the traditional manner (probably a letter to the residence of the owner), and focusing on other, perhaps more pertinent issues? I would argue that the OP is not saying that improved efficiency is bad, but rather that "Mindless" attempts that involve the assumption that the more technological solution is the more efficient one are counterproductive.
  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @10:18PM (#24452499)
    ... that privacy laws were intended to prevent. The potential for abuse is VASTLY higher than any possible good these things could do.

    Get rid of them.
  • Especially since (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @10:22PM (#24452517)

    Insurance brings something else to the table: The experience of dealing with traffic situations. What happens if you cause an accident and someone sues you (as often does happen)? If you don't have insurance, you have to find and retain a lawyer, and you are on the hook for the cost of the lawyer and all settlement fees. So that means you have to maintain a pretty substantial reserve to be able to cover all that.

    I mean let's say you live in a bond state and the minimum is $50,000 since that's what the legal minimum coverage is. Ok, great. However you can't just count on that. The amount of a settlement could go way past that (and you are liable for it) and I'd imagine if you pay out of the bond you have to replace it as well. So you end up needing to have a couple hundred grand, including the bond, available for this purpose.

    Now also, if you have money like that, it probably is not sitting in a checking account. You probably have it in stocks or property or something. Ok, so what happens if you have an accident sometime like, say, now when the market is down? Now you have to lose money because you need to liquidate your assets at a bad time.

    Against that, there is simply maintaining liability insurance. You pay maybe $100/month, probably less, and get a $300,000 policy. Then, if you get in an accident, it's handled. If you get sued, the insurance company hires a lawyer to represent you and them, one who specializes in this (and specializes in settling before it goes to court). You most likely have nothing more to do with it.

    Many people find that to be cheap piece of mind. Even though they CAN afford to simply pay things out, it makes more sense in general to have an insurance company there to handle things. Same kind of deal as hiring a gardener or a financial planner. These are things you can do yourself but often those with money would rather have an expert take care of them so they don't have to worry.

    Having been in an accident, and been sued, I will always maintain insurance. Even if I have billions, to the point where I've no worries at all about being able to handle any settlement, I'll still maintain auto insurance because they will handle things if something happens. The $30,000-50,000 or so I'd save over my life of driving just isn't worth the hassle.

  • Re:It's misnamed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @10:30PM (#24452559) Homepage

    Rather than waste energy avoiding the problem of these cameras, I dare say your energy would be better spent fighting their use all together.

    Why? If somebody's driving around in a stolen car, I want them caught and arrested. If somebody has warrants out for their arrest and recognizing their plates helps the cops grab them, great - It cost me a little less to pay cops to apprehend them because they were caught in traffic instead of being stalked and grabbed.

    Some laws are BS and some warrants are served based on those BS laws. I've spent a good deal of time breaking them openly and was always willing to serve the consequences if caught. But whining about cops having computers that can run checks on license plates is just silly. If you're going to that level, object to having the identifier on your car or go 'Civil Disobedience' and drive around without plates. But don't just whine because your publicly displayed identifier is being checked against known offenses. You may as well bitch because your picture is posted in a post-office with the word 'Wanted' above it. Automation is a sensible too and the solution to the real problem isn't to allow law-breakers to hide - It's to catch and convict law-breakers, fight the hell out of the legal system when people are going away for BS reasons, and continue to openly fight BS laws instead of trying to hide from enforcement.

    Claiming to break the law as a right of 'Civil Disobedience' while hiding from law enforcement is cowardly and counter-productive.

  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @10:31PM (#24452565)

    hey're not in your blind spot, which is behind you

    I chellenge you to provide evidence for this blanket claim, for all cars, trucks, RV's and go-karts.

    I'm really sorry that you don't think your own choice of road position has any bearing on the risk of an accident.

    Personally, I avoid hanging off the rear quarter panels of cars (and similar areas on semis, etc), and I haven't had a near-miss from a lane-changer in the hyper-aggressive driving capital of the southeast I live in in about 4 years (in that time i've logged approx 100k miles).

    I'll write it off as you getting angry. Most of your posts are much more down-to-earth and open-minded than this.

    For the record, I give extra consideration to bikers and bicyclists when i can see them because i'm aware of how horrific the injuries are on those vehicles.

  • Re:It's misnamed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02, 2008 @10:39PM (#24452599)

    I think that's not the point. The point is that it's better to have a few uninsured idiots breaking the law than to have innocent people's privacy infringed upon.

  • Re:It's misnamed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @10:39PM (#24452601) Homepage

    Now, over in the common sense corner, how many people do you know with enough liquidity to cover more than a minor fender-bender who lack proper insurance ...I'm guessing the answer is a small-ish number.

    Vanishingly small! People who have money have insurance not to pay for body work costs in minor fender benders, but to shield their assets from liability from lawsuits. If you're in an accident and the other guy gets the slightest idea that you might have money, there's a very real possibility that he'll suddenly develop all sorts of nebulous neck and back pain. The only time rich folks post a bond rather than pay for insurance is when they're driving something otherwise uninsurable, like certain exotic sports cars.

  • Re:It's misnamed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @10:45PM (#24452639) Homepage

    Just because they don't have insurance doesn't mean they can't compensate you. How many times a day does correlation v causation have to be covered on slashdot?

    You're right - A lack of insurance doesn't imply that they can't compensate you.

    But there's a very high degree of correlation between persons who drive without insurance and people who won't compensate you.

    Judge the causation/correlation issue however you want. Uninsured drivers tend to fail to take account for at-fault accidents. Whether it's a direct causation effect or not is a moot point - Folks w/o insurance tend to skip out on the bill and I'll happily pony up on gambling odds if you want to volunteer to cover their unpaid damages trying to defend a lack of proof of causation.

  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @10:45PM (#24452641)

    Why are governments passing laws... which insult peoples' intelligence?

    this one is because of civil claims..

    the "stupid" lawsuits which make it through, apparently because the judge cannot read, see, or hear.

    for example "mcdonalds made me fat" or "my kid is dead because the electrical appliance didn't have a warning label about bathtub immersion".

    that's the reason why the hammer at the store (literally in my area) has a warning which amounts to "if you hit yourself with this, you'll get hurt"

  • Re:It's misnamed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @10:52PM (#24452691) Homepage Journal
    "Why? If somebody's driving around in a stolen car, I want them caught and arrested. If somebody has warrants out for their arrest and recognizing their plates helps the cops grab them, great - It cost me a little less to pay cops to apprehend them because they were caught in traffic instead of being stalked and grabbed."

    The trouble is...there is really no way to mandate what 'else' can be done with this information. They're also scanning innocent peoples' plates. What is done with that information? What will be done with it in the future? Let's say they start using this to map out where everyone is during the day...time and location stored. Let's say you drove somewhere and were scanned...and a major crime had happened in that area? Guess what, you are automagically now on a suspects list. may get cleared, but, what if by strange circumstances, you aren't cleared for awhile. Personally, I don't wanna ever be on a 'list' such as that. Innocent people do get caught and falsely charged these days even without this kind of tech, this only adds great possibilities.

    With all the hoopla of an Amber alert going off, man, I'd hate to even have it known I was in the neighborhood where a child crime happened. These days, it is so easy to be guilty until proven innocent in cases like this. Ask the Ramsey's about that one.

    Ok...what if you are in a bad marriage...and this info shows you were at the 'hop on inn' with a girl, and then these records are then available for divorce lawyers. Sure, it might not be a nice or moral thing to do, but, it isn't the business of the state to be collecting personal information on you like this.

    And, there is no law or regulations saying what is to be done with innocent scanned plates. There is nothing preventing it from being one more way to store information about the populace. And so far, I've not seen a 'tool' given to law enforcement that has not had new and creative ways of using, not foreseen by the creators of said technology or law..

  • Re:And.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by winwar ( 114053 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @11:06PM (#24452777)

    "3. What do I have to hide? Who cares where I go, or how I get there. I have my insurance, I have my registration, I have my inspection. I'm good to go."

    Really? So could you poste your name, SSN, address, where you work, your salary, your mother's maiden name, etc? Everybody has something to hide. Or at least doesn't want someone to know.

    If they know where go and how you get there, they can now write you a ticket. But you say you never break any laws?

    "For the law abiding citizen there are *tons* of benefits for this."

    Well if a cop tracks you long enough or follows you long enough, you will break a law-this has been stated by cops. Nobody is a law abiding citizen. There are too many laws.

    There are potential benefits. And a lot of negatives.

  • One problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sniper98G ( 1078397 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @11:34PM (#24452999)

    Once car thieves catch on to this they can start carrying a clean plate with them. I doubt the reader can tell what kind of car the plate is on and determine if that is the right kind of vehicle like an officer doing the check could.

    So in the long run this will not be used to combat car thieves; it will target mostly law abiding citizens who just screwed up.

  • Re:Poor analysis (Score:3, Insightful)

    by novakyu ( 636495 ) <> on Saturday August 02, 2008 @11:46PM (#24453079) Homepage

    If license plate numbers didn't exist, you'd have WAAAY more people running from the cops.

    You know, I had an idea. If we legally require that an RFID tag be implanted on every adult's hand (if you don't like electronics, simple barcode may suffice as well), then we will make law enforcement much easier and more effective. Now all a cop needs to do is scan your RFID tag from a distance, and when they tell you to stop, you stop.

    If you try to run after they take your RFID code, you are an idiot because "evading a police officer" charge will show up on your record, possibly including an arrest warrant, etc.

    So, this sounds like a great idea to make the society safe from all those people running from the law, no? After all, if it works with vehicles, why not with people?

  • Re:And.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Datamonstar ( 845886 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @11:50PM (#24453091)
    I live in Texas, too, and I can personally say that know a number of people who are NOT here illegally that don't have insurance and quite a few that are here illegally and DO have it. You happen to know of five instances. Well, I'm sure someone knows 6 instances that prove otherwise. Or 7, or 8. What does that matter? Snapping a picture of everyone's plates is NOT the way to fix a broken insurance system.

    New father here, too. And I would hate to think that when he eventually starts driving that he could be possibly be added to a database for doing nothing wrong at all. I don't want him to get abducted, either, but again, what does that have to do with this camera system? The cameras won't prevent abductions from occurring, nor would they magically yield the abductor's plates or insure that he wasn't using alternate means of transportation.

    I too have nothing to hide, but I've a hell of a lot that I don't want people to know about me, I'm not going to hide any of it and I'll be damned if I let someone try to force me to give up information that I don't need or want to make known.
  • by KGIII ( 973947 ) <> on Saturday August 02, 2008 @11:57PM (#24453121) Journal

    You need to get out more. I'd suggest a car and driving. There are some of us who truly NEED to be able to drive in order to function in today's society.

  • Nothing to hide? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Something Witty Here ( 906670 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @11:59PM (#24453129)
    >> Why is everyone so petrified of being accountable for their actions these days?

    Obviously you have never been accused of doing something that you didn't do.

    > Living in Texas (and yes, I like it here, even though it was 105 today) > there are more than a fair share of illegal immigrants on our roadways. > Many of them downright suck at driving. Most of them don't have insurance.

    Build a fence. Post armed guards.

    Outsource to Mexico instead of China, so they will have paying jobs at home and aren't tempted to try and get past the armed guards.

    > 3. What do I have to hide? Who cares where I go, or how I get there

    Your vehicle was recorded as being near the scene of some horrible crime. Can you prove you didn't commit said horrible crime? No? Off to jail with you.

    > Your location in a public place is

    No one's business. It is not even remotely reasonable to suggest that we must stay home 24x7 with blinds drawn.

  • Re:It's misnamed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @12:08AM (#24453175)

    Then where do we draw the line between "useful for the police" and "could be misused"? Surely it's arbitrary. If your real concern is possible misuse, then your real problem is not with the tool, but the people in control of it. How about instead of using the denial of technology to ensure the cops are not screwing with law-abiding people, you actually get a proper police force that won't misuse its abilities, or at least is heavily punished if it does decide to transgress. Using bureaucracy to protect people is a shoddy, half-assed, ridiculous idea. If the cops are the problem - fix the cops. If we go down the "ooh this could be misused" route, we can't have cops, as they could be corrupt. Clearly that's not a sustainable approach to law enforcement.

  • Re:It's misnamed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ben2umbc ( 1090351 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @12:14AM (#24453203)
    I witnessed my friend get pulled over due to this about an hour before the story was posted on /. (We are both pizza delivery drivers). We are in Howard County, MD which is indeed inside the sphere of Washington DC Metro Area. He was stopped for an insurance violation, which - guess what - turned out to be false.

    In a way, I like the use of these cameras - for now - as I have nothing outstanding on my name, and it should keep the cops tied up stopping other people who aren't me. But at what price? I don't think the cops should be spending their time pulling over the common public just because a computer said so.

    I also don't see this as a big revenue generator as those are mostly speeders and red light runners, oh, and they have cameras for those all over MD already. I speculate these were purchased through DHS grants in the name of catching terrorists. Unfortunately it is now the police who appear to be the terrorists.
  • Re:It's misnamed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TeraCo ( 410407 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @12:16AM (#24453213) Homepage

    " don't think the cops should be spending their time pulling over the common public just because a computer said so. "

    What if the government spent billions hiring enough police that they could call the insurance companies manually for each car that drove past? Would that be suitable? This is exactly the same, it's just more efficient. Why do you hate efficiency!

  • Re:It's misnamed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @12:17AM (#24453215) Homepage Journal
    "How about instead of using the denial of technology to ensure the cops are not screwing with law-abiding people, you actually get a proper police force that won't misuse its abilities, or at least is heavily punished if it does decide to transgress."

    Well, in theory, your idea would be the right way to go, however, in real live practice, it just isn't gonna happen. People in power, will do the wrong thing....human nature. It is easier to deny them the tech. The thing is...once they have the new 'tool'....even if laws are passed to limit its use, a few years down the line, when new people are in charge of the system, they will lament how they 'need' the extra powers...maybe to help against terrorists or something.

    It has happened time and time again. It happens not just with tech, but, with laws...they're using Patriot Act stuff now for drug investigations. RICO isn't just for gangsters any more, they are using it in new and creative ways. They can and will do the same for tech.

    The bottom line of what I'm saying is, we have to be VERY judicious in what we allow law enforcement and those in political power to use as a tool of any type because the temptation is there at some point, to go beyond what the tool was granted for.

  • abuse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pxlmusic ( 1147117 ) <> on Sunday August 03, 2008 @12:21AM (#24453229) Homepage

    the cops can always *find* a reason to stop/ticket you.

    if you don't think so, stick around. the "i have nothing to hide" argument bears out to be no good reason.

    anyone given this kind of power (see the police) will find some way to abuse it to their own ends -- and often get away with it.

  • by Thaelon ( 250687 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @03:00AM (#24453989)

    It's not always a matter of public inadequate transportation.

    It's often a matter of simple sprawl.

    Europe is fucking tiny. Ok? Most of our states are bigger than many countries. That's not being elitist, it's being realistic. Even our modestly sized states are bigger than many countries. And The population density in some areas is so low as to be silly to provide public transportation.

    The cities where things are densely populated DO have public transportation. NY, DC and Atlanta to name a few.

    But to covering the urban sprawl with the kinda of public transportation you would need for everyone to get around just isn't feasible yet.

  • by Fjandr ( 66656 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @06:04AM (#24454705) Homepage Journal

    This reminds me of a story my mom related to me some time ago. She encountered a couple of German tourists who happened to ask her if she could tell them how long it would likely take them to drive to ... Nebraska? (some midwestern state, anyway) ... from Eastern Washington. She told them it would likely take at least a couple days, and more if they didn't push it. The couple was noticeably shocked at the length of time required. She had to point out to them that the drive would be akin to traveling from Berlin to Moscow.

    A lot of the disconnect in comparative discussions between what occurs in Europe vs. what occurs in the US stems from the fact that perspectives are so different between natives of each particular locale. Simple comparisons don't take into account all the complex assumptions and biases that would truly make for an accurate apples-to-apples picture.

  • Re:It's misnamed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Richard W.M. Jones ( 591125 ) <rich.annexia@org> on Sunday August 03, 2008 @06:46AM (#24454877) Homepage

    I'm happy for them to do absolutely anything with it - provided that all the license plate tracking information, including that of politicians and off-duty police, is a matter of public record.

    You probably wouldn't be so happy after your house got burgled because the criminal knew you were away on a long driving trip. Of course, exactly the same thing could be done by a corrupt policeman, which is why the data shouldn't be collected in the first place.


"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI