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Transportation Government Privacy Your Rights Online

ACLU Questions Privacy of License Plate Scanners 246

coastal984 writes with news that the American Civil Liberties Union is launching a nation-wide effort to find out how police departments are using and retaining information gathered from license plate scanners. They've sent FOIA requests to departments in 38 states, as well as the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Transportation. "It’s not an exaggeration to say that in ten years there will be [automatic license plate readers] just about everywhere, making detailed records of every driver’s every movement, and storing it for who knows how long. In some cases, we know that the worst-case scenario—vast databases with records of movements of massive numbers of people—is already happening. To avoid this fate we need to convince the nation and our lawmakers to take action on this serious threat to our liberty. And to make a convincing case, we need to know a lot more about the problem as it stands. Last year, most people didn’t know why we should call our mobiles 'trackers' instead of phones; there was very little public information on how police departments were using our phones to track our location. The ACLU stepped in and spearheaded a massive public records project, bringing together affiliates from every part of the country, obtaining documents that showed how police nationwide were getting access to our intimate information without judicial oversight."
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ACLU Questions Privacy of License Plate Scanners

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  • Use a Frame (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hardburlyboogerman ( 161244 ) <> on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:41AM (#40828661) Homepage Journal

    My van has a custom built (By me) License plate frame that unless you are DIRECTLY dead on line of sight,all you see is a 1 finger salute.The Van give the bird to any cameras or scanners out there.

  • by ThatsMyNick ( 2004126 ) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:47AM (#40828777)

    How else are you going to do this? The law in it's present state allows this sort of monitoring. We after all do vote for these politicians. Might as well ask them to do something for us.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:51AM (#40828835) Homepage

    That's not quite right, and does a disservice to politicians who actually do give a damn about civil liberties, e.g. Ron Paul and Russ Feingold.

    For instance, back in 2002 the Bush administration created the Total Information Awareness project, where the NSA was going to basically intercept all Internet traffic in the US and build profiles of everybody based on what they saw. After years of agitating by the usual suspects (including the ACLU and EFF) Congress defunded the agency.

    However, what the NSA appears to have done in response to Congress expressly saying that they shouldn't do this: (1) Rename the program. (2) Make the whole thing classified. (3) Move the budget lineitem to a different spending category. (4) Continue as if nothing had happened. So the problem isn't exactly all politicians being power-hungry bastards, it's that power-hungry presidents (and both Bush and Obama are involved in this, it isn't a partisan thing) can work with a power-hungry national security state to do whatever the heck they want without the approval of Congress.

  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @12:26PM (#40829985) Homepage Journal

    A police officer, your neighbor, or a random guy on the street can see them. There is no expectation of privacy of your license number. Anyone can take a picture or video of your car, and its license number, on a public street - they can even use a telephoto lens. They can do almost anything they like with the images, including extracting license numbers from the images.

    OK, first, let's get rid of this "random person" fallacy - My neighbors/random people have zero interest in what I do from day-to-day, and the feeling is reciprocal, rightly so. If a random person/neighbor were to follow me around everywhere I go, keeping a log of everything I do, regardless of whether or not I am in public, I can have them arrested for stalking/harassment, because it is illegal for people to harass each other in such a way. Not to mention, my neighbors/random people do not profit from the incarceration of myself or anyone else.

    In no logical sense are the two (government / private citizens) comparable - Put the strawman down, and step away slowly.

    There's nothing in the BoR or constitutional case law that even remotely prevents this sort of monitoring.

    Really? So the Fourth Amendment does not state that "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?"

    Or perhaps you're disputing the idea that surveillance is effectively a search?

    Does the Fifth Amendment not say "No person... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself?" Or does tracking my movements, waiting for me to slip up, then using said movements against me somehow not constitute self-incrimination?

    Then there's the Sixth Amendment, which states: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right... to be confronted with the witnesses against him." Kind of hard to do when the "witness" is a software program that is incapable of distinguishing an individual human from their plate number, isn't it? Seriously, how's that supposed to work?

    Defendant: Your honor, I would like to bring the database containing my license plate tracking information to the stand, so that it may be cross-examined.

    Lemme know how that one works out.

    While not directly stated in the Constitution, the "presumption of innocence" has been established as the basis of our laws for quite sometime, and is backed by precedent: "The principle that there is a presumption of innocence in favor of the accused is the undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary, and its enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal law." - Decision, Coffin v. United States []

    Tracking systems such as this not only violate our Constitutional right to travel freely without fear of government harassment, they run afoul of the ages-honored tradition of 'innocent until proven guilty.'

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard