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L.A. Police: All Cars In L.A. Are Under Investigation 405

An anonymous reader writes with a link to an article by the EFF's Jennifer Lynch, carried by Gizmodo, which reports that the L.A. Police Department and L.A. Sheriff's Department "took a novel approach in the briefs they filed in EFF and the ACLU of Southern California's California Public Records Act lawsuit seeking a week's worth of Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) data. They have argued that 'All [license plate] data is investigatory.' The fact that it may never be associated with a specific crime doesn't matter. This argument is completely counter to our criminal justice system, in which we assume law enforcement will not conduct an investigation unless there are some indicia of criminal activity. In fact, the Fourth Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution exactly to prevent law enforcement from conducting mass, suspicionless investigations under "general warrants" that targeted no specific person or place and never expired.

ALPR systems operate in just this way. The cameras are not triggered by any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing; instead, they automatically and indiscriminately photograph all license plates (and cars) that come into view. ... Taken to an extreme, the agencies' arguments would allow law enforcement to conduct around-the-clock surveillance on every aspect of our lives and store those records indefinitely on the off-chance they may aid in solving a crime at some previously undetermined date in the future. If the court accepts their arguments, the agencies would then be able to hide all this data from the public."
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L.A. Police: All Cars In L.A. Are Under Investigation

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23, 2014 @06:59PM (#46559825)

    The 4th Amendment's warrant requirement only applies when there is an expectation of privacy. There is no expectation of privacy when you are out in public, nor in anything that can be investigated with plain human senses (plain view, plain smell, etc).

    When operating a motor vehicle on a public roadway, there is no expectation of privacy attached to your license plate number, or your location. A police officer can follow you around all day without a warrant, and run as many checks on your plate number as he desires, and make a note of everywhere you go.

    An officer does not need a warrant to listen to a conversation you have with someone at a park, nor does he need a warrant to take a sniff of whatever it is you're smoking outside your office.

    You guys need to get over yourselves.

  • by apenzott ( 821513 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @07:22PM (#46560013)

    ...Join them.

    I believe another strategy on this would be to setup a crowdsource movement to create Android based ALPR devices and scatter them all over LA County and have these devices harvest data for uploading to the web for EVERYONE to view, especially with the ability to get real-time tracking on any California (E) plated (governmental) vehicle.

    By doing this, it would encourage the lawmakers to make it a requirement to have a specific warrant before this data collected by anyone. This assumes that the new law would be designed to raise barriers to "amateurs" entering the ALPR business and use them indiscriminately.

    Best results if that can also be done in the District of Columbia and Sacramento, CA so we can keep tabs on our lawmakers actions.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @07:23PM (#46560021) Journal
    We get all worked up about the government data collection. But what LAPD is doing is perfectly legal for a private company to do. There is already a huge industry of people with license plate scanners to scan every car in a parking lot and tip off repossession companies for the tip money. Private investigators collect such data to use in divorce cases, child custody cases. Stalkers and creeps could use private detective agencies to access such data base of collected license plate scans.

    I am not saying, "So we should let LAPD scan license plates". What I am saying is whatever argument you use against LAPD is valid an order of magnitude more for private companies too. And any solution, change we propose should also prohibit such private companies from consolidating such data into some kind of national data base queriable by private detective agencies, repossession companies, divorce lawyers, etc.

  • by sahuxley ( 2617397 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @07:28PM (#46560055)
    ...to some of you but police officers are also there to protect you from those who might want to take your money or otherwise commit a crime against you. I'm aware of the potential for abuse from these systems, but if we decide they can't watch us in public, where can they watch us? What deters a robber that knows for a fact there will never be a cop around to catch him in the act?
  • Re:Big Government (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @07:31PM (#46560067)

    But neither party is interested in ending the intrusive, ineffective "War on Drugs".

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @08:08PM (#46560295) Journal
    Today the private companies and the corporations have more power than the federal government. Yes, they can't arrest you and throw in jail, yet. But they can ruin your life so much it is just as bad as being thrown in jail.
  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @08:09PM (#46560297) Journal

    Not necessarily everyone in the world.

    But to the NSA, certainly *EVERYONE* inside the United States of America is suspicious.

    I read a line from TFA with disbelieve ...

    "This argument is completely counter to our criminal justice system, in which we assume law enforcement will not conduct an investigation unless there are some indicia of criminal activity"

    How naive the author of TFA can be !

    The author should have known that the so-called "criminal justice system" of the United States of America is no longer the same one under the Constitution of the United States of America !

    Under the "Patriot Act", under the Bush and Obama Administration, United States of America has essentially become the United Soviet of America.

    There is no longer the presumption of innocent until proven guilty.

    Nowadays, *EVERYONE IS A SUSPECT* no matter what you have done.

    Nowadays, It is *UP TO THE DEFENDANT* to prove himself/herself innocent.

    Yesssirreee, that's the USA that we've gotten, the United -freaking- SOVIET of America.

  • by MobSwatter ( 2884921 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @11:36PM (#46561239)

    Actually, they dubbed the term 'constitutionalist' and filed it under terrorist. Fact of the matter, they are corporate bitches, and we the people are paying the price of corporate fear of reprisal for their own actions with our freedoms and additional cost on their 'security', and we the people get shit and a broke and hungry government. There were documents that leaked from the FBI back in 2002 that explained the irrational fear driven classification of a terrorist. I didn't believe it when I first saw it, but yeah it is true.

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?