Philadelphia Injury News

Using license plates to track location of owners

This is alarming news for people in the U.S. as a research group discovered that millions of number databases nationwide are keeping details of location of Americans; not just from government agencies

Americans are losing their privacy as their movements are tracked down using the automated scanning of the license plates of their cars. This was what the government used to track traffic violations.

American Civil Liberties Union has discovered the proliferation of databases storing details of Americans’ locations which is no longer confined to government agencies. It seems that even private companies have gone on the act.

Catherine Crump, an ACLU lawyer and lead author of the report, stated that license plate readers are the best method of location tracking. Collected data on millions of Americans is done by for government agencies.

Crump said that this situation raises the question if Americans want to live in a world where the government makes a record of everything done by its people.

ACLU used the results of freedom of information they requested from 300 police departments and other agencies statewide that was contained in 26,000 pages of documents. The team was able to retrieve tons of policy statements, internal memos and training materials that have made them understand this side of unknown world.

Crump stated that it was impossible to determine the amount of license plate that passed through the scanning phenomenon as they have not gathered complete information. But it was clear that using scanners that are atop on police cruisers, installed on road signs & bridges and placed outside public buildings as ij schools and libraries; data bases are now storing millions of data about people.

The usual procedure begins with the gathering of photographs; license plate numbers including dates, times and locations of the vehicle was seen. What concerns ACLU is the fact that the information gathering is done at random. It includes details of every passing cars and the data is stored with very little safeguards and often for indeterminate periods or even forever.

Visible scanning is important in traffic as it provides law enforcers with a useful device in searching for stolen cars or criminals. After the data is scanned, it is compared to hot lists of: (1) vehicles that were stolen; (2) felony warrants: (3) names of probationary offenders on probation; (4) sex offenders. When matches are achieved, authorities are alerted to the hits.

Probably it would not matter so much if proper safety nets are in place how the data is stored and how long it took for the data to be placed in the base. But ACLU was able to find only five states who introduced laws governing these scanning devices.

Most of police authorities have a few or no regulations using scanners that they have required: that is, scanner is not used to track people for their own personal interest. Police department in Pittsburg stated on documents submitted to ACLU that they are using scanners in their daily patrol operation or investigation of criminals. In Scarsdale New York police department was enthusiastic about the potential of the technology that the potential of scanners is only limited by the officer’s imagination.

NYPD used license plate readers in their monitoring of mosques after the 9/11 tragedy.

Recently introduced by the police force is a one-year limitation in the on storing the data, but it is still quite long. People should be given more privacy in their movements such visiting an abortion clinic or attending a political demonstration.

 

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