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Plate Readers Abound in DC Area, With Little Regard For Privacy 268

schwit1 writes "More than 250 cameras in Washington D.C. and its suburbs scan license plates in real time. It's a program that's quietly expanded beyond what anyone had imagined even a few years ago. Some jurisdictions store the information in a large networked database; others retain it only in the memory of each individual reader's computer, then delete it after several weeks as new data overwrite it. A George Mason University study last year found that 37 percent of large police agencies in the United States now use license plate reader technology and that a significant number of other agencies planned to have it by the end of 2011. But the survey found that fewer than 30 percent of the agencies using the tool had researched any legal implications. With virtually no public debate, police agencies have begun storing the information from the cameras, building databases that document the travels of millions of vehicles."
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Plate Readers Abound in DC Area, With Little Regard For Privacy

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  • A sad world. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:08AM (#38122980)

    Where I live, there have always been plate readers.
    We call them 'Sir'.
    They register plates that seem suspicious to them and store them in little black notebooks that they keep 'til retirement, half a century sometimes. They work only 8 hours a day and want wages, uniforms, typing machines, unions, sick time, vacations, retirement money and other stuff the new ones don't need.
    The new ones are much cheaper for us taxpayers.
    They also know every fucking stolen car's plate by heart and can't be bribed by a doughnut.
    When we want to be anonymous, we walk or use a bike and not a car which have had license plates to identify them since the last 100 years.
    I guess that this new stuff is definitely eroding the right to drive a car in public that is registered as stolen, used in a robbery, kidnapping or murder.
    We can't even use stolen money anymore, since scanning money counting machines were invented.
    Even jewellery owners have digital photos of their stolen stuff online in seconds.
    It's a hard world for criminals.

    • Re:A sad world. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:22AM (#38123042)
      It's a great time for criminals. Of course, now we tend to call them 'corporations'.
      • That's a nihilistic negative attitude. The world is better with street thugs. Enjoy it instead of whining about something else. There always be something else that is not fixed.

      • Re:A sad world. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by shentino ( 1139071 ) <> on Monday November 21, 2011 @10:29AM (#38123644)

        Actually, when they're corporations they are no longer called criminals.

        Doing wrong and breaking the law are two very different things now.

        Remember that the one who has the gold gets to *make* the rules, not merely get away with breaking them.

    • Re:A sad world. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:27AM (#38123074)

      Want to hear something funny? Where I live we have the right to travel freely, a right to privacy, a right to be secure in our papers and person, and a right to be presumed innocent.

    • You, sir, get a gold star. I only wish I could make it mod points, but I see others have got there first.

    • Re:A sad world. (Score:5, Informative)

      by zebidee ( 40430 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:31AM (#38123110) Homepage
      The problem isn't the state doing this tracking - it's private corporations. Gas stations in the UK perform number plate recognition in order to avoid "drive-offs." But if you're then using your store loyalty card with your gas purchase then they've tied your number plate to your purchase history/patterns. On top of that the store can easily access the DVLA records [] [].

      In the UK we also have a system called TrafficMaster [] [] which analyses traffic flow for their satnav services. There is, however, nothing to prevent them working with the stores to cross-reference number-plates against traffic flow. So now the store can find out exactly where you're driving as well.

      That kind of information is something I never signed up for & one of the reasons I'll never have a store loyalty card.

      • Re:A sad world. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Inda ( 580031 ) <> on Monday November 21, 2011 @10:07AM (#38123432) Journal
        In the UK...

        We also have police sat in cars with ANPR (Automatic number plate recognition). Their buddy will sit in another car 500m down the road.

        We also have places like Bath and Bristol where all entrances and exits have ANPR. If you drive in one of these cities, make sure you are fully legal. If the camera spots you, you'll get pulled over further down the road.

        We also have them in London. Drive into London, make sure you pay your fee, or expect a nasty letter.

        The DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) also have mobile cameras. Expect a letter and fine if you drive past one and you don't have car tax.

        The police also have ANPR facing forward in their cars. If they drive pass you, and you are not legal, expect to be pulled over and fined. Even if you are parked, expect the fine.

        I welcome all the above. If you want to drive your car on the road in the UK, make sure you've fucking paid like the rest of us.
        • even my parking ticket at the multi-storey carpark at EDI (Edinburgh Airport) issued by the barrier had my number plate printed on it -- for anti fraud, or for marketing - or 'other' purposes?

        • Re:A sad world. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by swalve ( 1980968 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @12:56PM (#38125428)
          I agree. It would be nice if people would automatically know and do the right thing, but they don't. All it takes is a few instances of doing the wrong thing and getting away with it to teach someone that doing the right thing is a game to be played.

          It reminds me of school. I was lucky enough to go to a couple of strict schools. The teachers and administrators were out in the halls, enforcing the rules. If your shoes weren't tied, you got pulled out of line and were told to tie them in a firm but friendly manner, probably with a lecture about how loose shoes can lead to falling down and breaking your neck. In high school, there was one administrator who was sort of in charge of one half of the school. He pulled you over for everything, made you fix it and then move along. Even if he didn't manage to grab you up at the time, he'll pull you aside the next day and let you know that he was on to your antics. He never had to give out detentions, and everyone was pretty happy with the setup. On the other side of the school, however, those administrators loved giving out detentions. You rarely got caught, but when it did, it costed you. Students had way worse "records", they were more stressed, and overall behavior and rule following was lower.

          You end up doing the right things because it was a hassle not to, and were forced to accept that the rules were the rules, and it paid to just go along to get along. Life is easy that way. There didn't have to be crackdowns, there was no stress about getting caught when 100 other people didn't.

          I look at the law the same way. If the laws are enforced uniformly, and you aren't subject to the whims and prejudices of the enforcers, you feel like you live in a just society. If there are bad laws, they get fixed because instead of a minority getting screwed, a majority gets screwed and demand a change.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by shentino ( 1139071 )

        In theory you'd expect competition to weed out consumer unfriendly attitudes like this.

        In practice, raping the consumer's information is so profitable that nobody in their right mind would fail to do it.

        If everyone who can provide you an essential service refuses to give it to you unless you sell your soul, your only choices are cough up the ghost or go without.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dave420 ( 699308 )
        The Data Protection Act would have a *lot* to say about that. The amount of data you would be able to request from said companies would bring them to their knees if even a handful of people requested it.
      • So now the store can find out exactly where you're driving as well.

        OK. Then what?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
          Then they can correlate it, work out when you are unlikely to be at home, and use that time to burgle your house (or sell the information to gangs who will do it).
      • Then i hope you pay with cash, otherwise they just use your CC number as your loyalty number. If that doesn't happen, they could use your license plate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dominious ( 1077089 )
      I was going to mod insightful but I want to add to that:
      Dear /. reader,
      Why do you have a plate on your car in the first place? It's an identification number... Yes, to identify you in case it's needed by the police or by anyone. Don't like it? Don't use a car then. What? Privacy? What do you mean exactly? Also, you expect the police to ask for public debate? Yes because the public knows better the job of the police than the police itself. Get over it. You live in a crowed city, and you should follow the r
      • Re:A sad world. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:52AM (#38123288)

        You live in a crowed city, and you should follow the rules of the system or get out.

        I know it is a foreign concept to most Americans, but... []

        Yes because the public knows better the job of the police than the police itself

        The Wikipedia articles just abound this morning: []

        Yes, the police serve the public, and that means that if the public feels that some aspect of police work is unacceptable then the police must not do it -- even if it is helpful in catching criminals. These days we have militarized police forces and vast, ever-expanding police power and so it is easy to forget that the police are there to serve the public. It is cruelly ironic that one of the most famous police forces in the country has the motto, "To protect and to serve."

      • Re:A sad world. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @10:34AM (#38123688) Homepage

        Why do you have a plate on your car in the first place? It's an identification number... Yes, to identify you in case it's needed by the police or by anyone. Don't like it? Don't use a car then.

        Except we have around 6 decades or so in which this was a passive means of identification.

        Automatically scanning and recording of these things is a relatively new development, and the technology is outpacing the the law and understanding of how best to treat this.

        Some might argue that in the US, automatic plate identification and tracking is creeping a little close to the bounds of the 4th amendment [] in that there is no need for probably cause or judicial oversight.

        I'm glad that you're embracing a surveillance society and think we all need to as well ... but unfortunately, some of this automated technologies is somewhat eroding actual rights entrenched in both law and custom.

        From a certain perspective, it's hard not to see 1984 and Brave New World hurtling towards us as likely outcomes instead of just speculative fiction. Because law enforcement is charging ahead with these things under the assumption they can do anything they want, and it can take literally years to get these matters settled by the courts, at which point an awful lot of damage can have already been done.

    • Re:A sad world. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:46AM (#38123224)

      It's a hard world for criminals.

      Except for any criminals who are using these plate scanners. Do you think the people responsible for finding cars using this system is above being bribed? What system of accountability is in place to prevent abuses? How would people even know if they were being illegally tracked by this system?

      The problem is not that the system might be used to catch criminals, it is that it almost certainly will be used to track innocent people, to avoid constitutional restrictions, and to make possible the enforcement of an even larger set of laws (as if we do not have an absurdly large and complex legal system as is).

      • I'd rather have the government doing it anyway.

        For one they already have the power, and for two, there's additional safeguards in place.

        Law enforcement, unlike private business, is bound by the 4th amendment.

        Additionally, it's a federal offense to abuse police power to violate someone's civil rights.

        See the FBI website and what it has to say about "color of law violations" where they investigate such cases.

        • Except when it involves travel, enter the TSA.

          You might be a terrorist! They need to track YOU! And sell your information.

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      Where I live, there have always been plate readers. [...] It's a hard world for criminals.

      Thats besides the point.
      Nobody is arguing that ubiquitous camera surveilance doesn't help bring criminals to justice or that it shouldn't.
      The (perceived) problem is in the "colateral damage"; how does it affect law abiding citizens and can (and therefore "will") it be used for less than noble purposes?

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by Renraku ( 518261 )

      But you see, it won't stop with only being used against criminals. Most people can agree that less crime is a good thing, and finding stolen cars is good too, since they often aren't recovered. Today it will be used to find stolen license plates. Tomorrow it will be used to find expired tags and automatically ticket the owner. Next week it will be to get a list of suspects in an area who may or may not have robbed a convenience store three blocks away. Next month it will be used to see who is driving a

    • Re:A sad world. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by chill ( 34294 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @11:01AM (#38123994) Journal

      Unless the criminals happen to be the cops.

      The people in charge of these are human, and a FOIA request will show a plethora of discipline problems. Many revolve around misuse of systems.

      For example, running illegal criminal checks on your daughter's new girlfriend. Finding out everywhere your wife's car has been seen. Who is she visiting at that apartment complex?

      There are numerous reports of hospital personnel snooping on patient records. Of IRS personnel snooping on private tax records. It isn't just celebrities who are the target, but political opponents and people with different religious or social views.

      A bit of creative editing (think Michael Moore or James Oâ(TM)Keefe) can generate a web of lies that is plausible enough to cause irreparable harm to the victim.

      Cardinal Richelieu is quoted as saying "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."

      These system generate multi-volume epics.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, horrible criminals such as myself:

      -- Forgot to get a new sticker for my plate for a month once
      -- Drove my fully insured, but unplated vehicle around the neighbourhood once to show a potential buyer it was okay once
      -- Drove a car to the mechanics with a mechanics/dealer plate that flipped over once
      -- Drove through a broken red light in the middle of the night once, after stopping and looking carefully, of course (not technically illegal, but something those cameras would

    • I guess you've never had someone clone your plates before.

      Be sure you have evidence of your location, and more importantly your car's location, at all times of the day. If you can't prove it quickly and absolutely, you can be damn sure you'll be copping a fine at best.

      A car was spotted in London parking illegally which had used the registration number of a vehicle I own. Around a month after the offence, I get a letter saying I owe them £70 in fines, or a day in court. Thankfully, I had very g
  • duh (Score:5, Funny)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:12AM (#38122996) Homepage Journal

    they can't land the black robot helicopter on your car if they don't know where you are.

  • shake out.

    Right now the Supreme Court is considering a case as to whether GPS monitoring of a car constitutes a search in the 4th Amendment sense, i.e. requiring probable cause or a warrant. This is important because one of the key car surveillance cases of the 20th century (Knotts v. United States) upheld beeper surveillance of cars but included dicta stating that "dragnet surveillance" could be debated by the court as a separate matter.

    I am currently hopeful that pervasive and intrusive surveillance methods like this will be struck down by the courts, as the third circuit has already expressed doubts regarding historic cell site location data (case name: "In the matter of the application of the United States for an Order directing the provider of a communications service to disclose records to the government," third circuit, 2010). The Third Circuit more or left let magistrate judges make that determinations for themselves.

    • by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:59AM (#38123358)

      Right now the Supreme Court is considering a case as to whether GPS monitoring of a car constitutes a search in the 4th Amendment sense, i.e. requiring probable cause or a warrant.>

      That is a very different situation in the legal sense. GPS monitoring requires the authorities to attach a device to your car - so they must trespass onto your private property, and leave the device on your private property. They also track you whether you are on public or private property. Their use will, hopefully, be found to be "unreasonable search and seizure".

      Cameras, on the other hand, do not trespass at all - they only record from a public location what is happening on public property. Their use in the UK is certainly settled case law; their use in the USA is pretty much settled law as well.

    • I'd say it counts as a search if you drive your car onto private property in a garage not visible to the prying eyes of the public.

      The question is would police gain information they could not gain with their own eyes?

    • the subject is not (Score:5, Insightful)

      by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @01:26PM (#38125806) Homepage Journal

      part of the comment body.

      Stop putting your reply into it.

  • Hell, lets just throw a GPS tracking device in every car.

    That way we can make the buyer of the car pay for it, and redirect that tax money to other programs. /s

    • Perhaps you haven't heard. That is in the pipeline. []

      And it's not just GPS, its GPS and event data.
    • As cars become more efficient and use less gasoline and diesel per mile, or none in the case of EVs, state governments in the US are looking at alternatives to taxing fuel as a source of funds for transportation infrastructure. One alternative that has been seriously looked at is equipping cars registered in a state with a GPS device that would record how many miles you drive in the state each year. Think of it as a mileage tax rather than a fuel tax. You know that it won't just stop at mileage, though.
  • by Chelmet ( 1273754 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:24AM (#38123056)
    ...and welcome to the UK.
  • Panopticon (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:26AM (#38123064)

    The thing about a real panopticon is that every node can see every other node.

    Somebody needs to tag all the cop, govt, and elected officials' cars and keep a public database of their movements so that the citizenry can keep exact track of what they're doing. Their home addresses, where their kids go to school, medical records, and bank account information should also be posted.

    Let's show them where this road they're on ultimately leads.

    • by qbast ( 1265706 )
      This would be stalking. Cattle and its herders are under different law after all.
    • Re:Panopticon (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pentalive ( 449155 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @10:52AM (#38123880) Journal

      Nice Idea, the watchers would never let it happen.

      BTW the watched in a panopticon don't get to watch as well. "The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched."(Wikipeda)

      I thinks this comes under the heading of "Whatever rule you make should apply equally to all people, including you"

    • Re:Panopticon (Score:4, Insightful)

      by witherstaff ( 713820 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @12:02PM (#38124784) Homepage
      I'm all for a social networking program that lets you sit your phone in a cradle on the dash while driving, capturing all plates that are auto-uploaded to an open database. The best part is this would allow the cop location services for speed traps to be reliable, instead of so many false positives. Anyone up for a project? While I've done android dev, I have not done any video processing work.
      • I'm pretty sure phones don't have the optics to do that. Even if the focus was good enough, you'd need polarizing filters, vibration compensation etc.

        My $200 camera? Perhaps, but it's not going to be doing it live.

  • by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:26AM (#38123070)

    ...IMHO it does nothing to promote safety, it's a revenue collection aid, nothing more.

    • Re:ANPR is old news (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:34AM (#38123142)

      Yeah in the UK a bunch of drive throughs like McD use it to check you havent parked up and gone shopping. They anpr your plate in and outbound and if greater than a signposted time has elasped they send you a ticket using the govenment database to get your details.

      Whilst not legally enforceable most people pay up

      excert below

      They usually allow free parking for between 60 and 75 minutes and no return within 90 to 120 minutes.

      If you break these strict conditions, your meal could be an unhappy one as Richard Kerr discovered.

      On the way to collect his mum from Stansted Airport, Richard picked up a quarter pounder with cheese from McDonalds. When he collected his Mum, she was hungry so they returned to the restaurant about half an hour later.

      Charges for repeat custom
      Two weeks later, Richard received a demand to pay charges from Met Parking. He had spent a total of just 47 minutes on site but because he had left and then returned within the forbidden 90 minutes, his car was clocked by the camera and he was served a parking charge.

    • but the claim that it's merely a revenue collection aid is bogus.

      ALPR does a remarkable job of finding autos for which the owner has an outstanding warrant. It's usually pretty minor stuff, but not always. ALPR flags an auto with a warrant, the police officer takes notice. Obviously not every ALPR is located on a police vehicle and not every car flagged is being driven by the person for which there is an outstanding warrant.

      Still, some of the time, it is used to find persons with outstanding warrants, an

  • [] (jump to circa 5:50)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:32AM (#38123116)

    ... of the sort of choices we have to make, now that storing things indefinitely is cheap. Do we want the panopticon? Do we rather live without constant oversight with the implication that some law-transgressors will remain uncaught? Given how we have laws impeding law enforcement, the choice ought to be a no-brainer. Yet even here people have trouble with the indications, apparently believing that if only you make sure you're nice and obedient and squeaky clean all the time, you cannot accidentally fall afoul of the law.

    Personally, I draw the line at storing, if you must deploy automated readers. Let them match against lists of known-stolen plates and flag occurrences for immediate action, perhaps store for later reference if immediate action is untenable. But don't go keep tabs on things that reasonably are to be taken as being okay. There's no need to store where every soccer mom has been, so don't. That is a basic privacy principle, even if not seeing everything means you miss things you didn't know yet were out of kilter when you were seeing them. For that sort of thing we should probably reserve for human police officers. Not because the machines aren't better, but because at the end of the day society is about people, not about turning them into obedient little automatons.

    Think about it. What do you really want?

    • by FBeans ( 2201802 )
      I think the real problem here is the "fewer than 30 percent of the agencies using the tool had researched any legal implications." There has been no formal consideration of storing of "personal" / "private" data. In this case I think that a little common sense shows that it's not a big issue for drivers, if one at all. On the other hand, as a member of that state I would expect to know what data my authorties are obtaining and storing, and how they intend to use it. There are hundreds of "privacy" cases
    • I'd much rather not have a big juicy government database to tempt a hacker with an appetite for personal information.

  • Replace tag numbers and locations with random ids and make it open for researchers.

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      Make sure to also randomize timestamps and camera locations, otherwise it would still be relatively easy to track and identify individuals.
      But then what good is the data to researchers?

  • Using generic webcam type parts and open source software? Perhaps we should build an open system that anyone can log plate captures be honest some of the douche bags that drive up my street way too fast could do with being shopped, replete with photo and license plate details....
    • You need high resolution cameras, or some system for locating license plates, a tracker, and a zoom lens. It ends up being quite expensive per node.

  • And yet ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ubrgeek ( 679399 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:36AM (#38123156)
    âoeIf youâ(TM)re not doing anything wrong, youâ(TM)re not driving a stolen car, youâ(TM)re not committing a crime,â Alessi said, âoethen you donâ(TM)t have anything to worry about.â

    Then officer, you're OK with my recording your making a traffic stop? Or how you choose to break up peaceful protestors? I mean, if you're following your agency's official rules, there should be no problem, right?
  • Is it possible to use these photo's as an alibi that you weren't someplace else? A clear cut example: A car with my license plate is caught stealing (and it's the same kind of busted up blue Opel Astra stationwagon, since anyone can get that data nowadays). My car is pictured 10 minutes later 100 kilometers (62 miles) away. Will I get a ticket? Can I use the picture to prove there is at least something terrebly wrong?
  • by grumling ( 94709 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:43AM (#38123202) Homepage

    Why is it when I read something about DC's police force it's some new high tech tool, or a SWAT type tactic, or some other major program to reduce crime? And why is it that it never seems to even make a dent? Every time I've been to DC one of the most noticeable features is the sheer number of police cars, I'm just talking about DC metro cops, that are everywhere. Never mind all the Park Service police, black SUVs, and other law enforcement officials.

    How about get rid of the toys and get cops to start walking the beat? Let them get to know the people they're arresting and maybe be a good influence in the neighborhoods during the day, and just maybe you'll see crime drop at night.

    Oh, and let people carry. Nothing says "I'm armed and dangerous" like a Glock 9mm on the hip.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I don't think any of the Federal cops, with the possible exception of the NPS rangers on the mall or other open park areas, have much to do with 'crime' control unless it is crime of a Federal nature that the Feds want in on, like homeland security, DEA stuff or the like.

      Actual crime control (robbery, assault, murder, larceny, burglary, vandalism, petty drug dealing, gangs, etc) are all left to the DC Metro cops. My guess is that DC metro policing is HIGHLY political and probably deeply influenced by the k

    • Oh, and let people carry. Nothing says "I'm armed and dangerous" like a Glock 9mm on the hip.

      It's only been a couple years since Heller, I doubt you're going to see a statistical outcome for a few more.

      But, while open carry is great and all, concealed carry is needed to really deter crime. First, open carry is a reasonable advertisement for theft. Not guaranteed, but a temptation. Second, when you have 5-10% concealed carry, it becomes a reasonable assumption that *everybody* is concealed carrying and wi

  • The fact is that the technology exists. Its a BAD idea, but someone is going to do it. The thing we need to establish are the ground rules. Either the data should be sealed and accessible only with a court order, records should not be kept in the first place, or the data should simply be in the open (after all if the argument is you're in public then it is simply public information). Having discussed this with people involved in some of these programs it's pretty clear that different law enforcement agencie

  • What's the difference between this and Google mapping wifi? In one case people are broadcasting on 2.5 and 5GHz, in another they are broadcasting on 650 - 240nm. (~ 470THz to 1000THz)

    If you don't want people recording your license plate, maybe you should encrypt it. (:-)
  • by morgauxo ( 974071 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @10:44AM (#38123792)
    Police officers taking down plate numbers... Your plate number might exist in a few officer's notebooks. It is a very sparse and random sampling of places your car has been. It is very incomplete and is distributed in far too many places to hope to piece it together anyway.

    A proliferation of automated plate scanners... Your plate number in a database listing every time you have driven past the scanners. Easily enough data to piece together the daily routine and and a good amount of other data on any criminal, protester, political opponent or person a police officer might just not like.

    This is a lot of power to put in the hands of corruptible people. Are as many people as I see defending this really so scared of the criminals out there and have that much trust in the government? The overwhelming majority of us live our whole lives without being killed, raped or even mugged. I'm sure most of us experience something getting stolen from us at some point, usually a car broken into in the middle of the night but really, it's not THAT bad. Keep in mind as well that no serial killer, thief or rapist in history is responsible for as many deaths as our congress and executive branch.

    If we keep giving so much power to our governments we WILL lose our freedoms. And for all these people who keep talking about biking and walking. Where do you live? Maybe in DC that works but DC is only an early adopter. Anything which gives the government and police more of the power they crave will spread without sufficient citizen opposition. Most areas are more rural than that and things are just too far spread apart. Many urban areas on the other hand don't have such great pedestrian accommodations and walking/biking is a likely way to get ran over.
  • If we restrict activities in public spaces only to those we approve of, are they still public spaces?

  • Public behavior should be recordable. You really don't want a precedent set against the recording of public behavior. It's not in anyone's interests.

    However, we need to remain diligent and make sure that it is always all public behavior, meaning it must always include the public behaviors of those who work for the government in any capacity. Without exception.

  • But the program quietly has expanded beyond what anyone had imagined even a few years ago.

    Ahh, the Washington Post/MSM and their standard excuse of "no one could have imagined" when finally forced to report the consequences of the sociopathic behaviors of the ruling class (consequences that were not only warned against at the time of the original behaviors but that they themselves were part of insisting were impossible).

    "No one could have imagined America's war in Viet Nam would have such disastrous consequences."

    "No one could have imagined rewarding companies for shipping jobs overseas w

  • There hasn't been a lot of discussion on Homeland security's take on this.... I know several police officers (friends, family, etc) throughout the United States. These real time scanners are in cars and at "intersections" or off ramps when you get into or leave communities. If Homeland security is watching your tags then they know when you leave DC and drive through NC and end up in Myrtle Beach or Charleston. Of course, even if Homeland security isn;'t actively watching your tag, they have a record of your

  • It works like this: The government gets to use technology until they abuse it. This is supposed to encourage restraint. In the instant case, the requirement that the license plate be unobstructed and mounted in the normal place is voided. Vehicle registration laws are not voided, just the display of plates.

    Next time the government will think twice before becoming oppressive.

  • by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @11:11AM (#38124096)

    While it may seem Orwellian to have License Plate Reading systems, your information on your plate is not private and it's not an invasion of privacy if somebody looks at your plate while your in a public area. For law enforcement the obvious things come to mind. Serious Crime and Parking Violations. Any storage beyond that would start to raise concerns about tracking your whereabouts since you can be tied to the vehicle. In Texas for example we have Toll Tag systems that scan license plates when you go through a toll gate, those could be used to track you as well.

    There should be some limit on how the data is used certainly, including time limits and third party use restrictions but I don't think that the government nor the companies who supply this technology will let that go easily because there's gold in that there data mining.

  • Fake Plates (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fropenn ( 1116699 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @11:43AM (#38124466)
    It's not hard to make a fake license plate. There was an article a few years ago about students creating fake plates for their cars (using the license number from a teacher from their school), then driving around town and running through the red-light cameras to rack up tickets for their teacher.

    What worries me is the ability to get tickets, or other, more serious violations, based on something that is very easy to spoof. Mad at your neighbor? Run a red light, get him a ticket. Mad at someone who cut you off in traffic? Steal gasoline from a station and get him arrested.

    The more these plate-tracking systems are implemented and upheld in courts, the more we will see abuse of such systems.
    • Re:Fake Plates (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mr Krinkle ( 112489 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @03:57PM (#38127840) Homepage

      It's not hard to make a fake license plate. There was an article a few years ago about students creating fake plates for their cars (using the license number from a teacher from their school), then driving around town and running through the red-light cameras to rack up tickets for their teacher.

      What worries me is the ability to get tickets, or other, more serious violations, based on something that is very easy to spoof. Mad at your neighbor? Run a red light, get him a ticket. Mad at someone who cut you off in traffic? Steal gasoline from a station and get him arrested.

      The more these plate-tracking systems are implemented and upheld in courts, the more we will see abuse of such systems.

      Lots of police cars have automagic plate scanners that pop up vehicle type, etc etc.
      So don't have the right type of car, you run a risk of getting a NASTY ticket for that type of nonsense. Also "spoofing" a known plate is a reason for more complete monitoring. It would catch this immediately, "this plate is here, and over here at the same time. dispatch two officers to investigate both vehicles"
      teacher gets annoyed for being pulled over, and student gets a nasty ticket.

  • I want a plate reader for my car, using two $50 CMOS sensors with wide angle lenses for fore and aft, and I want it to alert me whenever it detects a government license plate. Seems like these should be available built into high-end RADAR/LiDAR detectors round-about now?


  • by snsh ( 968808 ) on Monday November 21, 2011 @01:14PM (#38125634)

    What we need are license plate covers/skins that re-render your plate in Captcha font, only readable by humans and not by machines.

    Though the result will probably be police departments just outsourcing ALPR to humans in China and India.

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson