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Repo Men Using New Technology To Track Cars 222

kamapuaa writes "The NY Times has an article about how real-time license plate scanning is changing the car repo business. MVTRAC is one of several companies providing technology to track car license plates automatically, in order to populate private databases. This new tech is used by car repo companies to help banks or other lenders repossess cars; by police to find stolen cars or to locate ticket scofflaws; or really for whatever application MVTRAC and its competitors feel like pursuing, as the new-found industry lacks any kind of government oversight."
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Repo Men Using New Technology To Track Cars

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  • by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @07:37PM (#31300548)

    From a legal standpoint there is nothing wrong with this. The fact that a vehicle with a certain license number is at a certain location is public information and there is no reasonable assumption of privacy. Anyone walking down the street can gather this information. The use of vehicles and tag scanners just makes it faster. If they were logging license numbers of vehicles in locked garages, private property not visible from the street, etc then there would be an issue as there is an assumption of privacy and laws (B&E, trespassing, etc) would have to be broken to obtain the information.

    This service just centralizes what is already done by the parking authority of every major city; ever watch "Parking Wars"? All it does is allows more organizations access to the same database of vehicle locations.

    Who is able to obtain this information is a different story. Either by regulation or industry standard this information should only be given to organizations who have a legitimate need for it; repo, law enforcement, etc. It should not be given to every person who wants to track someone else. Stalking is a concern and should be addressed.

    The use of public information and technology to catch deadbeats and lawbreakers is not a bad thing.

  • by sayfawa ( 1099071 ) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @07:43PM (#31300586)
    People who exaggerate are worse than Hitler. I've lived in several non-NY American cities, and visited plenty of others, and got around on public transportation just fine. Sometimes they were big cities, sometimes they were small. Sometimes they were even on the west coast.
  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @07:52PM (#31300636) Homepage

    Why does somebody driving down the (public) road taking a picture of your (public) license plate on your car parked in (public) plain view and comparing it to a list need oversight?

    That alone I don't think requires oversight.

    What DOES require oversight is the same system, but writing it to a database including current location. Then selling said database to whomever. Your health insurance provider starts scanning it to see how many times you've been seen at Mickey-Ds in the last year. Once a week? Sorry sir, you'll have to pay a higher premium for that.

    Or how about the new business called Cyber Stalkers! For only $50 a search we'll tell you the daily traffic patterns of anyone you desire. For only $1000, you can get on the "privacy list" so people with $50 can't see where you've been. (If you'd like to see the where people with the privacy option have been call us for pricing details).

    Too outlandish? Never happen because too many would object? Why not a more acceptable service where only "bad" people get reported on. Enter "Strip club search!" For only $20 a search we'll tell you if you're loved one has been at all the local strip clubs (name, dates, locations, and duration). It's OK because it only targets those dirty strip club guys.

    There's countless ways an automated system like this can destroy peoples privacy in ways that don't exist right now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 27, 2010 @07:57PM (#31300674)

    and from a privacy standpoint that means the law itself is in need of an update.

    You can start with "corporations are not people" and therefore the freedoms we protect for humans don't apply to corporations except when we want them to. Any time corporations start doing stuff against the public interest, we can ban it, even if it's something we're free to do as individuals.

    And sure, the individuals involved can keep doing that stuff--but then they lose the liability protection that led them to assemble into corporations they way they are now.

  • by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @08:10PM (#31300764)

    Anything that can be legally done by a person can be legally done by a computer.

    For example, when I walk into a small store the shop keeper may do the following; scan my face, match that face to my name, remember what I have purchased, greet me by name and suggest similar items and sale items. Just because some of those steps are done by machine does not bother me. Now if all that information was posted on the internet that would be a problem.

    I have no assumption of privacy if I walk into a store that I have been to before; someone working there may, and hopefully will, recognize me (I like personalized service).

  • by weston ( 16146 ) <westonsd&canncentral,org> on Saturday February 27, 2010 @08:37PM (#31300932) Homepage

    And you'd be wrong, but not by much.

    Though this is nitpicking, I have to object. Despite some serious erosion of privacy protections on the civil front over the last few decades, we're not really there: the State doesn't yet have the apparatus for mass-tracking for even telecom. They know they're technically forbidden to have a lot of this stuff, which is why they largely rely on large powerful private entities or agreements with foreign states for the go-to.

    But this:

    We're losing our privacy because because both of those entities have been sleeping together.

    Is true enough indeed. And it gets worse over time because the amount of power in private hands keeps growing. And there's no other way to check private power other than with public power driven by large-scale civic participation. And we don't really do that anymore, or, if a lot of the recent anti-government populism is any indication, really believe at all in the idea of public power checking private power anymore. So it's down the path we go.

Civilization, as we know it, will end sometime this evening. See SYSNOTE tomorrow for more information.