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The Courts Databases Privacy United States

ACLU Sues ICE For License Plate Reader Contracts, Records (sfgate.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from SFGate: The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for records about the agency's use of license plate reader technology, after ICE apparently failed to turn over records following multiple requests. In December, ICE purchased access to two databases of ALPR data, the complaint reads. One of those databases is managed by Vigilant Solutions, which has contracts with more than two dozen Bay Area law enforcement agencies. "We believe the other is managed by Thomson Reuters," ACLU laywer Vasudha Talla said. The ACLU and other privacy advocates have expressed concern about how this data will be stored and used for civil immigration enforcement. The ACLU filed two requests under the Freedom of Information Act in March seeking records from ICE, including contracts, memos, associated communications, training materials and audit logs. Since then, ICE has not provided any records, the ACLU said in the complaint, which was filed Tuesday morning in the Northern District Court for the Northern District of California. "The excessive collection and storing of this data in databases -- which is then pooled and shared nationally -- results in a systemic monitoring that chills the exercise of constitutional rights to free speech and association, as well as essential tasks such as driving to work, picking children up from school, and grocery shopping," the complaint said. "We have essentially two concerns: one that is general to ALPR databases, and one that's specific to this situation with ICE," Talla said. "The ACLU has done a lot of work around surveillance technology and ALPR, and we're generally concerned about the aggregation of all this data about license plates paired with a time and location, stretching back for so many months and years."
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ACLU Sues ICE For License Plate Reader Contracts, Records

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why are private companies even allowed to amass this data?

  • since "privacy" in public is a moot issue
    • by Anonymous Coward

      With this kind of attitude, privacy will be dead in America soon enough, and you will be seeing how terribly oppressive America will become when the government and big corp had all the data about everyone.

      Isn't that what American have been saying about Chinese use of facial recognition by their police to find wanted criminals -- to oppress the population?

      There is huge difference from one end "being seen in public" vs the other end "everything you do in public will be recorded, analyzed, searchable and kept

      • So you feel you should be able to erase transaction records out of my database? Its not YOUR data, it is mine. I collected, sorted and stored it as a record of the business we have done together. It may be about you, but that is not the same thing at all.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Its not YOUR data, it is mine.

          That is where Americans' and Europeans' view differ.

          If the program running on my computer could belong to some megacorp and just "licensed" for my use in limited situation (such as cannot install on another machine even if I destroyed this one), if the music on a CD I bought cannot be legally played in a performance, in a store, etc, THEN why can't MY personal information cannot be only "licensed", with my consent, for YOUR limit use?

          • If i have an item for sale, and you buy it from me, i have the right (and duty) to record that down in my records. Those are my records, not yours. You have no claim of ownership of my transaction records. In what universe do you think you can erase my transaction records? Its not your personal information, you dont own the transaction record, I do.
          • THEN why can't MY personal information cannot be only "licensed", with my consent, for YOUR limit use?

            Of course it can. You can sell your personal data to anyone under whatever mutually-agreeable terms you see fit.

            The question is who originated the data. If you took photos of yourself, then they are yours to license. If I take a photo of you from a legal vantage point (e.g. not trespassing on your property or while you are in a changing room or taking a shit) then that photo is mine to license.

            No one believes that if a news reporter takes a photo of George Clooney at an event then the photo belongs to Georg

            • by sjames ( 1099 )

              If you follow me around taking my picture, you are a stalker. There is a bit of gray area if I am a celebrity, but most people are not.

              • Without more, no, that's not stalking.

                Anyway, this completely misses the point. Data that I create is mine to license irrespective of what the topic is. If I write a book on Obama's presidency (or Bush's) that book belongs to me the author, not Obama the subject.

                • by sjames ( 1099 )

                  That isn't universally true. Some information may be NDA or proprietary. Some information captured through questionable means could get you in a lot of hot water if you publish it. Also information you get under a false pretense may not be yours to publish.

      • Why is this downvoted? It's a coherent and valid point, quite far from any kind of fringe.
    • This is about the federal government conducting surveillance, by collecting data on everyone without first having evidence of a crime.
      It is unconstitutional for law enforcement people to collect this data, but not (under federal law) illegal for a private company to do it.
      It seams obvious, if ICE cannot collect this data themselves, it doesn't matter how they get the data, if they maintain it; that is the same as collecting it.
      They should only be able to request the minimum data directly related to a open c

      • This is about the federal government conducting surveillance, by collecting data on everyone without first having evidence of a crime.
        It is unconstitutional for law enforcement people to collect this data, but not (under federal law) illegal for a private company to do it.ACLU should be allowed to verify this.

        According to this article it isn't illegal and the ACLU knows it. They are trying to have it made illegal
        https://blogs.findlaw.com/blot... [findlaw.com]

        Here is the linked ACLU report
        https://www.aclu.org/files/ass... [aclu.org]

        • You're correct, collecting the data is legal I made a overly broad statement. Scanning a plate and checking for warrants in public is fine, holding that data for use exclusively used to investigate a crime with probable cause is also likely fine. ICE maintaining their own database for data mining, if that is what they are doing, is likely un-constitutional.

          As common as overreach is becoming, I think it is wise for the ACLU to assume the last thing is happening. My neighbor had his pickup stolen, and repo

      • Technically, the government isn't conducting surveillance. Corporations are conducting legal surveillance (they require no warrant), and are then voluntarily providing it to the government.

        If the government had requested the surveillance be performed, or it was of a type and nature that it could only be used by the government, there would be a point to be made that it was government surveillance, and that the companies were acting in the stead of the government. Neither of those is the case. License plat

        • by Cytotoxic ( 245301 ) on Thursday May 24, 2018 @06:40AM (#56664454)

          I don't even think the government requires a warrant for taking pictures of vehicles on public streets. Actually, I know they don't. Nobody does. There is no expectation of privacy in public.

          Many states already have networks of license plate readers, both for law enforcement purposes and for things like toll enforcement. They use that data to track known criminals - like estranged parents who kidnap their own children.

          If they want to place a tracker on your car, they have to get a warrant. If they want to put you under heavy surveillance, they have to get a warrant. But just checking 'who is this" by running a plate doesn't require a warrant.

          What the database does is blur the lines between those last two scenarios, since checking the plates of everyone passing several points throughout a city ends up building up a database that amounts to almost the same thing as tracking an individual all the time.

          It would be weird and illogical to conclude that such databases are illegal. It would also be weird and illogical to conclude that our privacy rights can suddenly be eliminated because databases, cameras and text recognition became cheap.

          There's no easy and obvious answer to this one. Someone's rights are going to end up being stepped on either way.

          • by Agripa ( 139780 )

            If they want to place a tracker on your car, they have to get a warrant.

            The USSC ruled that placing the tracker counts as trespass so it requires a warrant. They are free to just follow you around or track you via license plate scanners.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          So technically, I didn't commit murder, I just gave Lefty $10K to kill the victim. So I'm free to go, right?

          The police didn't search your house and crack your safe without a warrant, they just paid Larry, Darryl, and Darryl to do it.

          The U.S. has definitely not incarcerated you for 10 years without a trial, they just hired the cartel guys to do it for them.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        It's simple agency. If something is illegal for me to do, it is also illegal for me to hire someone to do the same thing for me.

        • > It's simple agency. If something is illegal for me to do, it is also illegal for me to hire someone to do the same thing for me.

          Sometimes. Things like the 1st and 5th amendments of the constitution covers actions of the government. So you may be correct on whether the government can pay someone instead. But since it is legal for a private company to collect the plates and locations of every vehicle in the US. It is also legal for them to do data mining on that data, and it is also legal for them to re

          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            Also many things require licenses, IE places where it may be illegal for me to carry a handgun for protection, I can hire a off duty officer to do it for me.

            There is a sublety you are hiring the cop to carry a handgun WITH a license. You can do that because if you had a license you would be allowed, and he does. The feds can't get a license to ignore the Bill of Rights.

          • ICE has extremely broad authority. They can stop any vehicle in a "border zone" and search it without probable cause. Which makes sense at a border crossing, right?

            But what is a "border zone"? Get ready... this one is a doozy. Everything within 100 miles of a border is a "border zone". Do you live in a border zone? [reason.com]

            All of Florida, Almost all of Michigan, almost all of New York, most of New England and a majority of the US population lives in a border zone.

            They have also asserted authority over the areas

            • >They can stop any vehicle in a "border zone" and search it without probable cause.

              If you meant they can legally, then you're incorrect.

              Supreme Court has upheld the use of immigration checkpoints, but only insofar as the stops consist only of a brief and limited inquiry into residence status. [aclu.org]

              The same rules for probable cause, and warrant still apply to the boarder patrol in this area, this zone is simply an area they are allowed to operate. Not allowed to pull over cars without cause, but are allowed che

              • The "public information" is "a car with this license plate is in this intersection right now". Anybody can look and see.

                The thing that is new (and privately held) is the ability to have a gigantic list of every car that drives through a long list of intersections at any point in time over the last five years. In years gone by that would have required paying someone to sit at all of those intersections writing down license plates and times. But now a computer can do it tirelessly for very little cost. So

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Actually, once a concerted effort is made to put together a number of casual sightings of someone in public to track a person or persons, we do have laws in place. It's called stalking, and it's very illegal.

  • Oh yeah, the A is American. You know, the thing that people entering the country illegally aren't. They bill of rights doesn't apply to them either so they can be searched however and whenever they want. That said, plate readers do sort of hit every single citizen, which could be an unreasonable search issue.
    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 23, 2018 @11:06PM (#56663292) Homepage Journal

      They bill of rights doesn't apply to them either

      Wrong.

      The bill of rights is a non-exhaustive list of human rights. Granted, not all of the rights are extended to non-citizens equally, for example foreigners can only purchase a firearm if they have an immigrant visa, and can only "receive" them for sporting purposes — not for self-defense. However, some rights are theoretically extended to citizens and non-citizens alike. Historically, for example, the USA has extended the rights under the first amendment to all people.

      I asked DDG "which rights in the bill of rights apply to non citizens" and the second link it gave back to me was titled "Yes, illegal aliens have constitutional rights [thehill.com]". However, it was surrounded by similar company. You could ask Google and see if it differs.

      That said, plate readers do sort of hit every single citizen, which could be an unreasonable search issue.

      We know what you can do with metadata if you have enough of it. It's dangerous. But we can't possibly stop our government from collecting it any more than we can stop Google. (They, too, have cars driving around with cameras on them...) So what do we do about it? I'd like to replace license plates with transponders, because they are ugly and affect aerodynamics. That would at least stop Google from recording our plate numbers (with good enough crypto, anyway.) But what can we do about our government?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The bill of rights is a non-exhaustive list of human rights

        YOU have it wrong. The bill of rights is no such thing. They are not a list of rights, they are list of RESTRICTIONS on the government and congress from infringing on rights that already existed before the bill of rights was included in the Constitution. They do not "grant" anything to the people, they just tell the government to keep off. If the, so called bill of rights did not list anything about freedom of speech, or freedom to bear arms, those rights would still exist.

      • Uh, no, it does in fact exclusively apply to American citizens.
  • What does that have to do with immigration?
    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Ever seen the number of hit & runs with vehicles which are uninsured and owned by illegals in places like California, Illinois and Minnesota? It's the easiest way to track them, especially since they won't show up at court.

  • They're Marxists.

  • We could protect freedom by sacrificing privacy.

    Let anyone collect data as massively as they like but require that access to that be free and open to all, along with all analysis tools. Not just the government, everybody. Sort of a GNU-like approach.

    I don't mind you seeing mine as long as I can see yours

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