Just as we’re beginning to comprehend the vast amount of data the government is collecting on us ranging from phone calls to internet usage, the ACLU has revealed that local police agencies are also documenting where your car is at any given moment.
Using automated scanners, law enforcement agencies across the country have amassed millions of digital records on the location and movement of every vehicle with a license plate, according to a study published today by the American Civil Liberties Union. Affixed to police cars, bridges or buildings, the scanners capture images of passing or parked vehicles and note their location, uploading that information into police databases. Departments keep the records for weeks or years, sometimes indefinitely.
As the technology becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, and federal grants focus on aiding local terrorist detection, even small police agencies are able to deploy more sophisticated surveillance systems. While the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that a judge’s approval is needed to track a car with GPS, networks of plate scanners allow police effectively to track a driver’s location, sometimes several times every day, with few legal restrictions. The ACLU says the scanners assemble what it calls a “single, high-resolution image of our lives.”
Of course the police say that they only use the information to track down criminals and get the “bad guys”. According to the assistant U.S. attorney the program has helped track down a whopping 132 wanted suspects. There were over 29 million license plates read and tracked by the scanners so at least we can rest easy knowing that the program works 0.0000045% of the time.
Not only is it yet another massive invasion of privacy it’s still yet another example of wasteful government spending that does nothing to help anyone but the people who own the companies who manufacture the equipment used by the agencies.