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Sunday, September 30, 2012

No privacy, no problem?




License-plate readers prompt privacy worries



Brooks Hays

License plate readers (LPRs) are multiplying around the country, allowing federal agencies to track you and your car — and raising the concerns of privacy advocates.
Hundreds of the nearly-invisible devices are already installed at fixed locations, and more are on the way, as Salon wrote earlier this week. LPRs have mostly been used by local police departments to catch car thieves, petty criminals, and unregistered drivers by capturing their license plate numbers. But recently federal bodies like the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been tapping into local databases as well as building their own systems.
Local police departments are also attaching LPRs to their cruisers, where they indiscriminately record any vehicle within range, alerting police in real time if a wanted vehicle is spotted. All scanned plates, not just those implicated in possible crimes, are recorded and tagged with GPS coordinates, a color photo and time stamp. A single scanner can record thousands of plates in a day. Because the information may be stored for several years, LPR systems can generate a retroactive surveillance story — plotting who was where, when.
Courts have held that a license plate number — which is, after all, affixed to vehicles in plain view — is not private information. Therefore, neither a warrant nor probable cause is necessary to search an LPR database.
“When you drive your car, you’re not guaranteed privacy,” as DEA spokesperson Rusty Payne  told Salon journalist Jon Campbell.
 Ars Technica reported in July that the DEA has already installed LPR devices in Arizona, California, Texas and New Mexico to track illegal immigrants and drug smugglers. The agency is planning to expand its systems deeper into the nation's interior.
Defenders of the technology say the devices are used solely to track suspected criminals, not innocent people. But as Forbes reported last month, the government has shared license plate tracking info with third parties like the National Insurance Crime Bureau, an Illinois nonprofit composed of hundreds of insurance firms. Earlier this year, the New York Police Department came under scrutiny for using the technology to track vehicles coming and going from city mosques.
Privacy advocates say digitization has vastly expanded what authorities can learn from physical surveillance. Stationing a police officer to observe license plates for a day is quite different from building a system of scanners that can record your plate hundreds of times in a day.
"We have a failure to understand the dangers of having a complete history of people,” Lee Tien, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights organization, told Ars Technica.
License plate tracking isn't the only surveillance technology garnering attention from privacy advocates. As GIMBY's News Focus reported last week, the FBI is also looking to expand its facial recognition technology using a system of nationwide surveillance cameras. And when license plate scanners and facial recognition don’t prove sufficient, there are always drones.


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There is no specified protection and guarantee of privacy but there are amendments that are interpreted to include “rights to privacy.”

Bill of Rights (and 14th Amendment) Provisions Relating to the Right of Privacy
Amendment I 
(Privacy of Beliefs)
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  

Amendment III
(Privacy of the Home)
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV
(Privacy of the Person and Possessions)
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment IX
(More General Protection for Privacy?)
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

21 comments:

  1. The State issues the plates, it obviously can moniter those plates.

    As has often been stated...

    Driving is a privelage, not a Right.

    You do not want to be tracked ...
    ... Stay home - or in the hinterlands

    Your choice. Those plates are public domain.

    ReplyDelete
  2. And, the difference between this, and having a cop on the beat with a good memory is . . . . . ?


    Since I'm not planning any Bank Jobs, I just can't get excited about this.

    ReplyDelete
  3. .

    And, the difference between this, and having a cop on the beat with a good memory is . . . . . ?


    Yikes!


    .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. .

      Since I'm not planning any Bank Jobs, I just can't get excited about this.


      Lordy. How soon they forget.


      .

      Delete
  4. Driving is a privilege but privacy is not?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The plates are not private.
      They are not even yours.

      You want privacy, stay off the street
      Out of thr airports

      There is no privacy in public. To think there is...
      Foolish.

      Delete
  5. Bob can just drive on the dirt roads he made on his alfalfa farm with no license plate and he's good to go. The rest of us schmucks gotta jostle with other folk.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Why do other countries value privacy more than in the US?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Princess Kate was in France, was she not, when the telephoto caught her, in private.

      Delete
    2. .

      If I understood it right, France and Italy have some of the strictest privacy protection laws around. Haven't heard anything recently but as of mid-September the royals were filing criminal lawsuits.

      I'm the last person to deny freedom of expression or to try to curtail 1st Amendment type rights, but face it, the photographer in question was little more than a stalker.

      .


      Delete
  7. There are more camaras in London, per capita, then any other city in the whirled.

    Maybe it's a WASP thing?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I just don't see the "downside." I can see all sorts of Upsides, but I just, for the life of me, can't think of a reason to be against it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I mean, we bitch about Gang-bangers, and drive-bys, and carjackings, muggings, quick stop hold-ups, etc all the time. Cameras will help, a lot with putting those people off the street. Where's the down-side?

      Delete
    2. .

      Well, the downside for me is that law enforcement agencies across the US are gathering this information. People in law enforcement have described it as a massive database. In addition, there is action being taken among certain agencies to combine all the pieces into one super-database, a database that will likely outlive you and me.

      You point out the advantages of the database. I see the 'potential' disadvantages, especially, in a country here the president says he has the authority to assassinate American citizens without charges, indictment, warrants, trial, etc., in a country where the term 'terrorist' can be broadened to include just about anyone, in a country where people never hear details of why you've been 'detained' because the info is secret and too sensitive to release to ordinary citizens. You can say that kind of thinking is just being paranoid, but wasn't it within the last two weeks that you were hotter than hell about the guy who was institutionalized due to comments he made on a blog.

      We have spooks up the kazoo, CIA, NSA, etc., not to mention the thousands of people in Homeland Security, FBI, ICE, local law enforcement, etc. all sitting around looking to do their duty. Pray you don't fit a profile.

      .

      Delete
  9. It was a camera that led police to Adrian.

    ReplyDelete
  10. On this day in 1908, the first Model T rolled off the production line at a Ford factory in Detroit, the first car designed to be affordable for the masses. Over the next 19 years, Ford would build 15 million Model T’s, completely revolutionizing the auto industry and the U.S. economy.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Most of us are familiar with traffic cameras that monitor roadways for speeders and red-light runners. But how much do you know about licence plate readers, or LPRs?

    ...

    Technically speaking, LPRs aren't all that different than other traffic cameras. Look across the U.S., and you'll find tens of thousands of them attached to street lights, next to traffic signals -- even mounted on moving vehicles.

    ...

    Red-light cameras, for example, are trained on intersections. Though they film every vehicle that passes by, they often dump that information if a vehicle behaves lawfully.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I don't believe the cameras and all they witness are databased (that would be quite the monumental task all its own). Rather the recorded video is kept on file for a period of time and only looked at when a specific reason requires it (like a crime). Video requires quite the data space to store and it would be currently untenable to store video recorded all over the friggin place for all time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. .

      The technology is advancing every day. When you can print money there is little else you can't do once the technology is there. They are already storing the data in discreet segments. Combining that data into a superset doesn't require any additional space.

      I don't believe the cameras and all they witness are databased...

      Yet, they are in fact doing it. These are digital images of license plate numbers stored just as they store digital images of finger prints. The difference is how they are used. Finger print use is pretty much objective. However, the data on the plates can be used for more subjective reasons.

      The difference between those who accept this as progress and those who reject it as one more encroachment on privacy and individual rights is the difference between those who view government as a benevolant parent and those who view it with distrust.

      The point I made about an executive with no restraint as defined by Obama has to be factored in when deciding which group you fall into.

      .

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete