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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 HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @06:46PM (#46559727) Homepage

    I'm going to take a wild guess that claim is going to get bounced out of court. Sounds more like a stalling tactic than a real defense. Unless the L.A. PD is going to try and make the case that everyone in L.A. is suspicious, in which case they might have a point.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23, 2014 @07:02PM (#46559851)

      Really? You think it'll get thrown out of court? Because it seems more likely that it'll set a new precedent as being A-OK.

      Laws are for the commoners, not the elite. You should know that by now.

    • by FuzzNugget ( 2840687 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @07:03PM (#46559859)
      Just LA? I assure you, everyone in *every western nation* is an *actual* criminal simply by being humanly incapable of knowing every possible or plausible interpretation, combination and permutation of every criminal statute.
      • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @07:18PM (#46559983) Homepage Journal

        And read the article summary at the top of the page, again. It is a textbook case-study defining the term "Police State".

        A police state is not one, contrary to cold-war era thrillers, where armed men patrol every street corner, asking for "papers".

        A police state is the one, where, subject to arbitrary criminal suspicion by default, individualsnhave de facto rights that are inferior to the rights for police to act, at every level from municipal to federal.

        Enjoy your police state, America.

        • by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @07:34PM (#46560089) Homepage
          And we still have people denying we're living in a police state! This is what it looks like and we're there. Now the question becomes, how do we get rid of it without the loss of millions of lives?
          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23, 2014 @07:58PM (#46560225)

            You can't take back what you want without giving up everything you have now.

            Let's say that, hypothetically, you were to start a small revolution.

            To begin with, what would happen is you would be criminalised, and called terrorists. Your friends and family would be turned against you (if it was known who you were). Should you go anonymously, they would be turned against the idea. Either way, the propaganda machine would go into overdrive, showing you to be evil commie terrorists, and people would accept what the state told them about your rebel group.

            It would be a bitch trying to gather any public support, with the state constantly whispering in everyone's ear that you were the bad and nasty people, trying to get rid of their democratic rights.

            So, you would need to be striking publicly, and often.

            What would happen then? Well, you'd get caught. You're in a surveillance state. Cameras everywhere. Cops, military everywhere. Drones everywhere.

            Loyal members of the public everywhere.

            I have no idea how you could possibly win. You've been so blindly led to believe that you have your true freedom that you have allowed them to take it piece by piece in a bloodless coup. You gave up all that your great-great-great-great grandfathers died for, all in the hope of being the next famous rich bitch.

            • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

              Actually the systems inevitably self destruct. Psychopathic societies run by psychopaths must fail because that is their nature, the rule of selfishness, greed, ego and lust, consumes itself. The parasite can not prey upon itself not matter how hard it tries. The rich and the greedy empower the police state and by the same token they can take that power away, hence the police state must eliminate them in order to ensure they can survive. Those now at the top, find each other to be the threat and the larger

              • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Monday March 24, 2014 @12:32PM (#46564713) Journal

                The solution to this is to stop believing in all powerful government is capable of giving you everything you need. While it might be possible to give you everything you need, the cost is everything you have, for any government that can give you everything you need, can take everything you have. To some people, this is acceptable compromise. To me it isn't.

                Decentralized governance is the ONLY real solution to the tyranny that is inevitable otherwise. The problem with Decentralization is that progressive politics doesn't fair well on a micro scale, and leads to tyranny on the macro scale. Of course the Progressives will come out with name calling "hate" speech to shut people up. I don't fear them ... yet.

      • by NoImNotNineVolt ( 832851 ) on Monday March 24, 2014 @09:54AM (#46563223) Homepage
        It would be refreshing to see this argument made in open court.

        Your honor, of course all cars are under investigation. Haven't you read Harvey Silverglate's "Three Felonies a Day"? We can, with reasonable accuracy, suspect that any individual is a criminal!
      • by Bacon Bits ( 926911 ) on Monday March 24, 2014 @10:31AM (#46563481)

        Personally, I like to point out that the government as tried -- repeatedly -- to count the number of federal laws that exist. It has never succeeded [wsj.com].

        One begins to question why ignorance of the law isn't a legitimate defense when the laws cannot even be enumerated.

    • The LAPD would only need to state that the images were captured with the intent of validating registration tags. Police have the right to look at a plate's registration tag when the vehicle is on a public road, and even stop you and ticket you if it is out of date. This could be automated and a ticket sent in the mail.
      • by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @08:00PM (#46560253)

        And if it were actually used for this purpose you could simply download a list of plates whose registrations have expired or been revoked into each scanner, and have the scanner report it when it saw one of those plates. In other words the LAPD's monitoring goes way beyond what is necessary to enforce the law, which is (or used to be) strongly frowned on by the courts.

    • LA Police are doubly suspicious.
      There's a good reason they have a worldwide reputation for corruption.
  • tree of liberty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by callmetheraven ( 711291 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @06:50PM (#46559747)
    is dying of thirst
  • Minority Report Anyone?
  • by Anna Merikin ( 529843 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @06:53PM (#46559769) Journal

    LA's cops department is notoriously incompetent -- need I quote chapter and verse? -- and, perhaps the civic leaders see this as a substitute for real police work.

    If so, perhaps the courts, in their infinite wisdom, will rein these devices in. If not, well, who cares? They can track my movements through my iPad or mobile phone anyway.

    Where do I sign up for the tour of the Gulag?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've ridden with the LAPD - have you? Most are extremely competent and driven to do the right thing. I see 3 things that drag them down:
      1. Massive amounts of crime - both in quantity and quality. They do what they can. IMHO they need to quadruple the number of parole and investigation officers.
      2. The organization is too big. That invites middle management with skewed goals and climbing the corporate ladder just like every other psychotic corporation.
      3. Misinfotainment reporting varies from half truths

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        1 could at least be partially solved by rationalizing our laws and fixing our society. The U.S. has a greater percentage of it's people in prison than even repressive states like China. That's not just bad luck.

        As long as 2 is true, GPs comment is valid.

        3 may be an issue, but Rodney King and the reports of innocent civilians being shot up are not made up. They happened.

      • Massive amounts of crime - both in quantity and quality. They do what they can. IMHO they need to quadruple the number of parole and investigation officers.

        Bullshit. Crime, especially violent crime, has been on the steady decline for 40 or 50 years. Google it. And violence against police dropped significantly also. You're as full of shit as they are.

        The organization is too big. That invites middle management with skewed goals and climbing the corporate ladder just like every other psychotic corporation.

        So you're saying institutional incompetence justifies violating the Constitution and the rights of the enemies of the police which from the police departments view is anyone not a cop.

        Misinfotainment reporting varies from half truths to outright lies.

        Yeah you're sure right there is a lot of that. But it isn't coming from where you seem to think it is and it certainly has you brain

      • How's that followup investigation into Christopher Dorner's allegedly inappropriate dismissal coming?

        Remember? Before they killed him, they told him that they'd launch a transparent investigation into his firing, just as he had demanded.

        I'm still waiting for the results of that investigation. For some reason, I haven't heard anything yet.

        I'm guessing that the investigation stopped at the same time as Dorner's pulse. Fuck the LAPD.
  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @06:57PM (#46559797)

    This is a police force where the Chief of Police in the 1990's, Daryl F. Gates, said [latimes.com] that casual drug users "ought to be taken out and shot," which prescription being specifically aimed at those "who blast some pot on a casual basis."

    Mr. Gates is no long with us, but not because of any repudiation by the LAPD.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @07:02PM (#46559849)

    That's the new reality. The laws just haven't been changed yet. Yet. And yes, the terrorists have won, by making the government and law enforcement do the terrorism for them.

  • Reasonable suspicion or probable cause first?

    Nothing is reasonable about scanning every single license plate you see. If the camera could scan the color/make/year etc of the vehicle, the compare that against known stolen vehicles or vehicles used in other crimes FIRST, then I could see them scanning the plate and doing further investigation, but just blindly scanning plates and recording their location is very disturbing.

    • Reasonable suspicion or probable cause first?

      If they want to go poking around in your garage, sure. If the car's out on the street, not so much.

      Nothing is reasonable about scanning every single license plate you see.

      That, by itself, sounds pretty reasonable to me. Storing the data - especially that pertaining to not-immediately-flagged vehicles - is where it starts to get murkier, and yet there it's also still just an automation of what a cop could do - albeit to a far lesser extent - with a pen and paper.

      • by Pikoro ( 844299 ) <init&init,sh> on Sunday March 23, 2014 @07:56PM (#46560211) Homepage Journal

        This is what I was thinking. Have the cameras doing the scanning, no problem. The camera scans a plate, then does a search for specific violations such as: Is the vehicle reported stolen, Has the vehicle been flagged as having received more than N parking or traffic violations, etc. Only a few select items to scan for. If it's a positive match, flag it and track it and notify an officer. If it's not, immedielty purge the record and move on to the next one.

        To me, that does not sound wholy unreasonable.

  • ...to get/make an IR License Plate frame.
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      ...to get/make an IR License Plate frame.

      You do know that they are quite useless against ANPR systems. Most digital cameras can ignore or filter IR these days, even your cheap $75 point and shoot wont be stopped by it.

  • The tag on a car is in public view. Therefore anyone has the right to view the tag and even note the when and where of such a tag. Think about it a little bit. When a man or woman hires a private detective to follow a wayward spouse and report back on where they visit that has never been considered illegal and ordinary people were free to do such things and not just cops. This all really points to records at the county courthouse debates. Once electronic postings of those records became common
    • by Jmc23 ( 2353706 )
      Is anybody allowed to do this?

      Do private detectives need licences?

      What kind of stalking crimes are there?

  • by uarch ( 637449 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @07:13PM (#46559937)

    It sounds like they have too much time on their hands. Perhaps they are overstaffed and in need of some headcount reductions in order to regain focus.

  • 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.

    • The major difference is that a private company can't arrest me and put me in jail. Government can.
      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        You don't still have Railway police there? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R... [wikipedia.org] Or the other varieties of private police that have "If they have attended the basic law enforcement officer's training academy in the state in which they work, they may be granted powers of citation, investigation, arrest or detention authority as long as it does not violate state law." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]
        They used to be much more common and seem to be making a comeback.

    • by haus ( 129916 )

      The Constitution provides protection from action by the government, but not from private parties.

      I suspect that the framers did not envision a time where private companies would have the ability to perform surveillance activities at or beyond the scale of what governments are capable of. At some point a real conversation needs to take place, and we need to determine if unlimited tracking/investigation of citizens by private organizations is in the best interest of the nation.

  • This argument is completely counter to our criminal justice system

    Law enforcement personnel don't think about these things the same way the rest of us do.

  • I fail to see how this is any worse than ARGUS, which _HAS_ been deployed over US cities as well as foreign conflict zones. The limiting factor is currently the storage space, but its not hard to imagine one of these things flying over every US city in the next decade storing a couple months of video.

    Really, this has been going on for years with spy Satellites too, and no one really seems to care because the exact capabilities are still classified, but i'm betting ARGUS is just complementary to what we alre

    • by Jmc23 ( 2353706 )
      Most people really don't care about 'privacy' in public.

      Have you ever watched people in public? Lots of nose picking and self preening as if nobody was around. Most people are too self involved to have it affect their lives. The people 4sd's from the mean, the paranoid and the criminal, don't make up enough of the population to have any effect.

  • If the EFF really wants to take a bite of Orwellian ass, they should campaign relentlessly to have the phrase "identity theft" replaced by the phrase "credential theft".

    FFS, no-one can steal my gosh-darned identity until they can call up any of my nearest and dearest family members and convince them that it is really me over the course of an hour-long phone conversation.

    I'd count that as actual identity theft.

    All we get for this careless throwing around of the phrase "identity theft" is taking the spotlight

    • If the EFF really wants to take a bite of Orwellian ass, they should campaign relentlessly to have the phrase "identity theft" replaced by the phrase "credential theft".

      It used to be that when someone convinced the bank to given them your money, it was called a bank robbery.

  • by resfilter ( 960880 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @08:05PM (#46560277)

    i'm getting tired of this, is anyone else?

    they want not just license plate cameras, but to track all of your movements. disable your vehicle if they want. UAVs with cameras now and guns later. wiretapping everything. they want complete tracking of what we buy, who we know, where we go, who we fuck, our entire genome.

    all this personal private data in the grimy hands of people that we don't know, and dont trust, collected with our supposed consent because a few people signed a 'protect us from everything at whatever cost' bills after some terrorist fear mongering.

    'public view is up for grabs' is a terrifying concept. there's a big difference between someone taking a picture of you on the street, and a cop taking pictures of everyone on the street all the time, so it can be harvested electrically for suspicious activities.

    i won't live in a police state, and i wont move either.

    we are the nerds. we are the ones that made this shit up! they're misusing our technology here

    that also means we are the ones with the capability to destroy these electronic monitoring devices in the least damaging way possible

    we also seem to form one of the communities with a very high percentage of people that have a gut feeling that this kind of thing is terribly wrong, and that realise how much it's going to get worse.

    we dont need activists or guerilla armies to get ourselves out of this mess, the future is now. we need nerds to fight, not guns.

    at what point do we save the power hungry morons and the whining fearful masses that keep signing off on all this stuff from screwing ordinary innocent people over?

    at what point will it be necessary to destroy these implements of monitoring with technological means?

    i hope this gets me on a terrorism list. this kind of stuff comes to my neck of the woods, i'm going to try my best to fuck it up.

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner