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Your car, tracked: the rapid rise of license plate readers

Jeff W's picture

Here, in Ars Technica, how cameras are collecting millions of travel records every day:

The scanners can read 60 license plates per second, then match observed plates against a "hot list" of wanted vehicles, stolen cars, or criminal suspects. LPRs [license plate readers] have increasingly become a mainstay of law enforcement nationwide; many agencies tout them as a highly effective "force multiplier" for catching bad guys, most notably burglars, car thieves, child molesters, kidnappers, terrorists, and—potentially—undocumented immigrants.

Today, tens of thousands of LPRs are being used by law enforcement agencies all over the country

—practically every week, local media around the country report on some LPR expansion. But the system's unchecked and largely unmonitored use raises significant privacy concerns. License plates, dates, times, and locations of all cars seen are kept in law enforcement databases for months or even years at a time. In the worst case, the New York State Police keeps all of its LPR data indefinitely. No universal standard governs how long data can or should be retained.

Lee Tien, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says, in the piece, “You don't know how that data is being used…You think that you are not affected, but you have no idea whether you're being affected.”

LPRs, several hundred of which are part of the NYPD’s “Domain Awareness” programs; Intellistreet’s “talking surveillance cameras”; and TrapwireScientia Est Potentia.
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