I was talking to one of my neighbors about why the city is putting a red light camera at an intersection near our street, when it wasn’t a problem area. She said it didn’t make sense; I said since it was the last intersection before the bridge to New Jersey, they were probably collecting information to track cars. She said I was “crazy” and “paranoid.” (I get that a lot these days.)

Turns out the EFF and the ACLU are wondering, too. They’ve filed a lawsuit:

Around the country, police are adopting the widespread use of automatic license plate readers, and storing photos with time and location records in databases that are not subject to judicial oversight. In California, the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that this data collection is widespread, with multiple counties creating coordinated databases that enable more thorough police location tracking of everyone, regardless of whether they are suspected of a crime.

A computer security consultant who spoke with CIR requested records of his own police scans several years ago, and found that his county police had logged this information once a week on average. One photo shows him and his daughters in their driveway.
Expansion and funding of this collection has been led by anti-terrorist agencies. Last year in California, for example, a law enforcement intelligence-sharing center set up after 9/11 signed a $340,000 agreement with Palantir, a CIA-funded start-up that has denied alleged links to the recently uncovered NSA surveillance. And a New Jersey county recently purchased the license plate readers under a grant from the Department of Homeland Security. But information collected has been used to solve domestic crime and enforce small-time violations, including parking restrictions or motorists who run red lights. In New York City, police have used the readers to catch car thieves and identify motorists with open warrants.

Like other forms of location tracking, license plate readers pose obvious privacy concerns, which is why several states and jurisdictions have limited their use, with New Hampshire banning them entirely. And a recent report from the International Association of Chiefs of Police has said tracking driver locations could raise First Amendment questions, as it collects data about individuals’ activities, religious practices, and even political protests. But in places where legislative limits have not been set, police are expanding their use of the tactic. An investigation in Los Angeles found the city had already recorded 160 million “data points.” Attempts to pass a California law limiting retention of these records to 60 days failed, after law enforcement and businesses that profit from the technology resisted.

5 thoughts on “Figures

  1. Your friend should be told about Operation Steller Wind which went live in 2001. OPS collected millions of phone calls, emails, etc. for the military (NSA). OPS was ended in 2011 by Obama and replaced by the even bigger metadata collection system that the military (NSA) has in place today. That’s what the bridge camera is tied into.

  2. Lenny and Mike Logan (law and Order) used to solve crimes all the time with license plate cameras and cameras at the toll booths. Jethro Gibbs (NCIS) has his computer man look up people’s emails and phone call logs on a moments notice. Just watch some TV and you will see how this stuff is used all the time to solve the crime at 10 minutes to the hour.

  3. Also, there’s a good chance motorists can get caught by a yellow then red light while in the intersection. And a ticket can be sent to them…ca-ching, ca-ching.

    I do remember when E-Z Pass was introduced that users were assured that any information about it would be used solely to ensure payment, etc. Nothing would be given to law enforcement.

    Hah. That lasted about as long as it took the first DA to figure out they could track people using the E-Z Pass info. Or as long as it took for the first divorce atty to figure out the same thing. Now, it’s common to use E=Z Pass info for all sorts of tracking and info seeking.

  4. 90% of law enforcement funding is being fed into the Intelligence-Industrial Complex. Homeland Security has met the enemy and he is us.

  5. No worries, the red light cameras will come down within a few years.

    And the drones will go up and stay up. Seriously, the defense contractors won’t be satisfied selling to the military, and now to foreign militaries — our state and local law enforcement agencies will be next.

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