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ICE Is About To Start Tracking License Plates Across the US 167

Presto Vivace shares a report from The Verge: The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has officially gained agency-wide access to a nationwide license plate recognition database, according to a contract finalized earlier this month. The system gives the agency access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking, raising significant concerns from civil libertarians. The source of the data is not named in the contract, but an ICE representative said the data came from Vigilant Solutions, the leading network for license plate recognition data. While it collects few photos itself, Vigilant Solutions has amassed a database of more than 2 billion license plate photos by ingesting data from partners like vehicle repossession agencies and other private groups. ICE agents would be able to query that database in two ways. A historical search would turn up every place a given license plate has been spotted in the last five years, a detailed record of the target's movements. That data could be used to find a given subject's residence or even identify associates if a given car is regularly spotted in a specific parking lot. Presto Vivace adds, "This will not end well."
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ICE Is About To Start Tracking License Plates Across the US

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  • I wanted a new license plate anyway.

    I guess I won't be the only one.

    • There are plenty available for free, just make sure no one is looking - good luck with latter part.
    • by sl3xd ( 111641 )

      What good would a new plate do you?

      Much like a new driver's license, or even a new car, it still identifies you, and it's not hard to query every license plate of every vehicle you've used (including rentals) since tracking began.

      Unless you're a billionaire and decide to take Steve Jobs's example and buy a new car every few weeks so you never have to get a license plate. (Granted, California recently closed that loophole [arstechnica.com])

      Cardinal Richelieu would be proud:

      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.

      In this case, they just have to wait for a crime that

      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        Much like a new driver's license, or even a new car, it still identifies you

        Not exactly. It identifies the owner, who may or may not be the driver.

        Now if the rental agencies and taxis promised not to release customer information without a court order, this could end well for them.

        And if you really don't want to be tracked, you can take mass transit or ride a bike. E-bikes are quite practical in many cases.

        There was a time when most people could go to the store and buy a gallon of milk without carrying any

        • Mass transit? The quasi-government agency with cameras that record everybody boarding the train/bus?

          Biking isn't much better, with the city putting cameras at every intersection. It's only a matter of time until they ID every face they see in real time.

          • Mass transit? The quasi-government agency with cameras that record everybody boarding the train/bus?

            Biking isn't much better, with the city putting cameras at every intersection. It's only a matter of time until they ID every face they see in real time.

            Wear a motorcycle helmet.

      • Register a blind LLC and have the car registered to it.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      So, state law requires a valid registration plate. But there's nothing preventing someone from putting a dozen other, different ones, on their car as long as the legit one is displayed (free speech!). Wanna do each other a favor? Let's crowd source a variety of license plate stickers. Fun times!
      • Re:Cool (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HanzoSpam ( 713251 ) on Friday January 26, 2018 @07:45PM (#56012037)

        That sounds like a good way to end up making the license plates.

      • Actually, I bet there is something preventing someone from doing this - the law. Even if there's not, your license plate will still be part of the group - I'm not sure the software cares which is the 10 is you if they're trying to track you or any specific plate.

      • But there's nothing preventing someone from putting a dozen other, different ones, on their car as long as the legit one is displayed (free speech!).

        Nothing other than the law that says you can only have one license plate on the back of your car, you mean?

      • Re:Cool (Score:5, Informative)

        by Lunix Nutcase ( 1092239 ) on Friday January 26, 2018 @09:14PM (#56012515)

        But there's nothing preventing someone from putting a dozen other, different ones, on their car as long as the legit one is displayed (free speech!).

        Except state laws?

        For example here is the law around license plates in my state: [findlaw.com]

        (a)A person commits an offense if the person attaches to or displays on a motor vehicle a license plate that:

        (1)is issued for a different motor vehicle;

        (2)is issued for the vehicle under any other motor vehicle law other than by the department;

        (3)is assigned for a registration period other than the registration period in effect;

        (4)is fictitious;

        (5)has blurring or reflective matter that significantly impairs the readability of the name of the state in which the vehicle is registered or the letters or numbers of the license plate number at any time;

        (6)has an attached illuminated device or sticker, decal, emblem, or other insignia that is not authorized by law and that interferes with the readability of the letters or numbers of the license plate number or the name of the state in which the vehicle is registered; or

        (7)has a coating, covering, protective substance, or other material that:

        So since you can't legally get multiple valid license plates for your car and thus you would either have fictitious license plates or ones that were issued for a different vehicle which violates the law.

        • I spent an uncomfortable day in court, because a seller had placed a license plate on a truck that did not belong to it, and I did not remove it prior to driving it home post purchase. I was 16. I was stopped by an officer, and given tickets for a 'stolen license plate, stolen license tags,' and hilariously, a fine for the 'stolen' registrations being expired. I was also given a ticket for failing to have registered the vehicle and providing insurance.

          During court, the judge determined that yes, I was
        • I wonder if they would interpret #6 to cover reading via mechanical means, or only via human eye.

          If mechanical means aren't covered then perhaps a license plate frame with very bright IR LED's would be possible. And maybe such a frame could include a bright white flash that is triggered by detecting another flash going off.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by HornWumpus ( 783565 )

      Poison the well.

      Undersized 'license plate' looking magnetic stickers, with rearrangeable #s. Different enough the cops can't fuck with you, but big enough to be readable.

      Also: Light machine oil on your plates and no car washes. Dirt will collect...sorry officer, I'll fix that right now.

      • Poison the well.

        Undersized 'license plate' looking magnetic stickers, with rearrangeable #s. Different enough the cops can't fuck with you, but big enough to be readable.

        Also: Light machine oil on your plates and no car washes. Dirt will collect...sorry officer, I'll fix that right now.

        Do you also leave your cellphone at home?

      • Most people won't even get the pat down at an airport even though they talk about caring about government invasion of privacy. If you think people are going to go to this much trouble to screw with the government, especially when it's going to draw unwanted attention of law enforcement, I've got a bridge to sell you.
    • I know in California the plate goes with car, so if you sell your car and buy a new one, you will have a new plate number that is not in the database. I don't know if that works for other states, but probably most of them are like this. So if you can afford it, buy a new car every year. If you buy a used car you at least reset the tracking done on you buy perhaps inherit some stale data of the previous owner. Which might be good if you find the idea of SWAT and ICE busting into your home to be thrilling.

      Ano

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        conservatives love authority. conservatives will keep voting these assholes in because they are 'tough on crime' and that rings with the church goers who simply do what they are told (they are not very smart, generally, and are easily manipulated if done by the right people).

        we will never break free of this. the ruling parties know this trick and use it against us *constantly*.

        good luck having a representative goverment when the morons will never be able to think for themselves and always vote against the

      • Wait, what?

        What about vanity plates? If I like the car you're selling do I have to keep the 'ILUVPONY' plate?

        I know California is a bit weird, but that seems over the top even for them.

        • You put the original plate back on it and keep your vanity plate, since you paid extra for it.

          • Not quite: you can keep the personalized plate, but you have to pay a fee to keep it (it's the California DMV: there's *always* a fee): https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/... [ca.gov] However, if you keep 2 plates, the state will not ever issue another pair of plates with the same number (they don't want 2 vehicles with the same plates), so in the past, you just kept the plates.
    • Re:Cool (Score:5, Insightful)

      by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Friday January 26, 2018 @09:53PM (#56012687)
      If the police follow you around for 5 years, you would expect they require a warrant. Interesting how using technology to achieve the same result is suposedly legal. This appears designed to bypass judicial oversight.
      • You’d expect that, yet they’re able to go to someone like your cell phone carrier and request historical data for your calls and locations without a warrant. The carrier may or may not give it without the warrant, but it can if it wants to.

  • Foolish public, you don't think this isn't already being done by some other government agency.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    What about all the fake temp plates? In Texas we are having a major problem with them, some one just buys a bunch of temp plays and that is not going to track to any one. So again great idea, but would only work if every ones plays by the rules, but if every one plays by the rules we would not need this.

    • by sl3xd ( 111641 )

      It won't be much longer before it's worthwhile to develop and install automated readers to flag & track every car with a suspicious plate, and then direct the police to them.

      Given the number of Police dashcams, it could even be a selling point should a new camera hit the market with the ability.

      • Pretty sure (like 99.99% sure) police already have cameras on their car which auto-recognize nearly license plates and look them up to alert them to anything which has been flagged.
      • So if you don't need any judicial permission to use a plate reader, we can install our own and keep track of the rich and powerful?
        • Steve Jobs was apparently worried about that, and made use of a loophole in California Law specifically to fly under the radar: it wasn't required to install plates for the first 60 days of getting a new car.

          A man of his resources had no problem getting a new car every couple months, so all of his cars had no plates.

  • Missing Option (Score:4, Informative)

    by Moof123 ( 1292134 ) on Friday January 26, 2018 @07:29PM (#56011899)

    I ride my bike and garage my car most of the time you insensitive clod.

    Can't wait till get have to have our papers on us every time we travel. Maybe we can give arm bands to identify those we are supposed to be scared of?

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Maybe we can give arm bands to identify those we are supposed to be scared of?

      Why do they need arm bands? They already wear badges.

    • by p0p0 ( 1841106 )
      A yes, another excellent excerpt from "Everyone I Don't Like Is A Nazi".
    • Re:Missing Option (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sl3xd ( 111641 ) on Friday January 26, 2018 @07:58PM (#56012125) Journal

      You do leave your home with your face, right?

      That's a pretty big clue, all by itself. From there, it's just a matter of combining footage from omnipresent security cameras -- which is really just a matter of effort.

      Combining all security camera footage was pretty effective in getting pictures of the suspects and timeline of the Boston Marathon bombing. London's panopticion is a regular feature on /.

      First it was "terrorists", then "immigrants". We already have prosecutors subpoenaing Alexa and Google Home for murder trials, and people are willingly putting surveillance devices in their homes.

      Hey, Siri, how screwed are we?

      Interesting question, sl3xd

    • They have your face ID, your phone, your car, your fingerprints, your Iris scan, your very DNA. Papers is such a twentieth century idea.

      And note that the query that they can ask is "Who has been near these people", or even, "which groups of people have been near each other".

      And it is all being gathered by private companies that are not accountable.

    • Re:Missing Option (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Friday January 26, 2018 @08:11PM (#56012221) Journal
      I ride a bike quite a bit too, friend, and I'll tell you this: if and when the day comes that we're all either prohibited (in one way or another, or to one degree or another) from riding bicycles anywhere, or are required to have some sort of gods-be-damned license plate on them so they can track us, then we'll know that it's time for Civil War II to start, because things will have officially Gone Way Too Far, and "government by the people for the people" will no longer have any meaning, we'll be living in a full-on police state and have no rights anymore.
      • Yes, you let us know when that happens, and we'll see how many people you can pry away from social media, videogames, etc to risk their lives supporting your highly abstract, theoretical ideas completely divorced from their everyday lives.

      • Day has already come and gone, license plates were normal for bikes at one time and there would be no problem reintroducing them in a society that considers government monitoring of plastic bags and soda to be "progress"
    • by swb ( 14022 )

      If you travel anywhere near the Mexican border you already have to stop at mandatory Border Patrol checkpoints, even though you're not crossing the border.

      I've been through several in Arizona and they feel fairly paramilitary although the "stop" generally involves just stopping for about 5 seconds and getting waved on. I figured being white and over 50 had something to do with the getting waved on part, however, I've seen the same wave-through thing happen with cars with Mexican plates in front of me and I

      • I encountered this, while traveling to Az in a U-Haul filled with my family and all belongings.

        I had recently, within the previous 30 minutes, had a vehicular incident that elevated my anxiety, and was already having a rough time. It was something like hour 13 on day 3 of a 2000 mile drive.

        Anyway, I crest a hill and once I do, I see that the highway has been modified to include a 'checkpoint.' Now, this thing was impressive. I noted radiation and many other sensors arranged about the entrance to the
  • by Anonymous Coward

    You track my every financial transaction to protect me from unfair something something. You want to give the whole Internet an anal exam to protect me from Russian propaganda. But let ICE try to enforce immigration laws and it's "oh noes!11 they're spying on me."

    Selective outrage. Nothing more.

  • What that really means is that license plates have been tracked for several decades and they decided to do some centralization upgrades and to make it official. That also means license plate databases have been used for several decades and at some point it became painful to use it the court of law, since some judges may decide that such tracking is not "appropriate".
  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Friday January 26, 2018 @07:46PM (#56012049) Homepage Journal

    We have a specific Right of Privacy in this state.

    You can't even put a GPS locator on a car without a specific INDIVIDUAL court order by a JUDGE here.

    This is a clear violation.

    Expect to be sued - successfully - by our State Attorney General.

    He's 22 for 22 so far.

    • Generally there's some suspension of a right to privacy when in public, otherwise it would make public photography of most any kind illegal as it may be infringing on someone's privacy. Installing a tracking device on someone's vehicle is an entirely different can of worms compared to governments tacking lots of pictures.

      I personally think the latter is far more creepy and fucked up than the first as at least in that case they need to convince a judge they already have a good reason to want to watch what
      • Our state police and county police and port police and municipal police don't work for ICE.

        And you can put cameras on federal ports of entry but not anywhere else.

        • Actually, the constitution has been suspended in every regard within 100 miles of every border (including coast.) It's still abided by for the most part, but it isn't actually enforceable.
          • Nope. You're entitled to add cameras to your ICE vehicles, and your federal customs facilities, but our Constitution prevails the second you walk out of the federal buildings.

            Posse commitatus, my friends. It works both ways.

    • They're only using publicly available information (what can be seen by driving down the road,) it's no different from Google Maps (Hell, Google's analytics tech is probably far more invasive.)
      • They're only using publicly available information (what can be seen by driving down the road,) it's no different from Google Maps (Hell, Google's analytics tech is probably far more invasive.)

        They tried that argument during the GPS lawsuit and they lost. Our State Constitution is very clear on this expectation of Privacy.

    • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Saturday January 27, 2018 @07:17AM (#56014083) Homepage Journal
      Not sure what you are smoking but https://www.seattletimes.com/s... [seattletimes.com]

      This has been happening for years. Adorable that you think your llicense plate is private though!
  • ICE agents just pulled my car over and seized my license plate. Apparently it didn't pass inspection. It's in the mail back to Canada now.
  • by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Friday January 26, 2018 @08:08PM (#56012201) Journal
    That's what some of (not all*) of our law enforcement in this country is turning into, and I in part** blame Trump for this. Haivng the Pussy-grabber-in-chief sitting in the Whitehouse has brought some of the worst kinds of people out of the shadows, emboldened them.


    * I am not going to claim that all police are jackbooted thugs; some genuinely believe in law-and-order, and want to help people.
    ** I'm also not going to lay 100% of the blame on Trump; many of his predecessors have contributed to this problem and/or set the stage for things that are manifesting now. Trump however appears to be the catalyst in many cases.
    • ...brought some of the worst kinds of people out of the shadows...

      Hmmm... perhaps, and not necessarily, a bad thing.

      Maybe it turns out in hindsight the Trump election was a good thing, as it forced America to look at itself in the mirror.

      • This has been posited to me before, and I admit there is a logic to it -- but just like uncovering a nest of cockroaches, you find yourself disgusted and nauseated, and you still have to clear it out and clean it up. Not happy about any of the above. It'll take decades to undo the damage the traitor in the Whitehouse has done so far.
  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Friday January 26, 2018 @08:31PM (#56012339) Homepage

    The interesting thing about this news is the datasource is not the State Registrations as one might expect. ICE is using "private" scans most likely because a significant number of state laws prevent them "fishing" and require probable cause for access. I bet much of those "private" DBs are from toll authorities, AFAIK all of which have enabling legislation. Watch for new laws restricting toll authorities, much like public outcry clamped down of State Registration searches.

  • For example, make it visible/readable from car-level only, so that cops can see it, but block out cameras on poles above and from the sides? For instance, a deep louver system would probably do the trick. Or perhaps some of those wild stickers to at least fool computer vision like was reported on a story here a couple of weeks back, so that this couldn't be automated?

    It seems high time for someone to start working on devices to do this, if it's not already illegal to install one.

  • How can an internal combustion engine track license plates?

  • Seriously, what value does ICE tracking LP give America's ability to secure itself? Absolutely NONE.
    I do not mind giving SOME help to LEOs by POTENTIALLY hurting our rights, but only when it is about national security.
    This is not. There is little to nothing in this that helps national security.
    This should absolutely not be allowed.
  • How long will such tracking continue before people decide to rip off their license plates in mass numbers? The government can only track license plates if they exist.

    People will make the claim that we need license plates, licenses to drive, and so on, so that if someone runs over some kid on a bicycle then we can track them down and have them arrested. Well, this is the price you pay for those tiny fractions of crimes that might go unsolved, you have a government that can track you everywhere you go, ever

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