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Fri Feb 21, 2020, 02:48 PM

California Cops Are Collecting Info on Millions of Drivers Who Have Done Nothing Wrong

https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/02/california-cops-are-collecting-info-on-millions-of-drivers-who-have-done-nothing-wrong/


California Cops Are Collecting Info on Millions of Drivers Who Have Done Nothing Wrong
With few rules and no oversight, California’s biggest law enforcement agencies are sharing millions of driver records.
Daniel Moattar
Research EditorBio


Law enforcement in four of California’s most populous counties is storing, searching, and sharing detailed records on millions of random drivers, according to a new report from the California State Auditor, a nonpartisan government agency. The audit, released last week, found major deficiencies—and possible lawbreaking—in police use of automated license plate readers (ALPRs) in the California counties of Los Angeles, Fresno, Marin, and Sacramento.

The technology is frighteningly simple: cameras on police cars or roadsides can scan up to 2,000 license plates per minute, storing the plate number, the location, and the time the car was spotted. From there, an officer can easily pull other identifying information, like the driver’s name, address, and criminal history, all without a warrant—or even a supervisor’s sign-off. The result is that drivers are being tracked and recorded by the police, whether or not they’ve done anything wrong. In San Diego, the state audit found that 0.04 percent of scanned plates were actually under suspicion when scanned. A 2016 CityLab report pegged that at 0.02 percent in Marin County. In Los Angeles, the figure was 0.01 percent of 320 million images, all including timestamps and the driver’s exact location. In 2013, Mother Jones reported that, per the American Civil Liberties Union, just 47 of the million license plates scanned in Maryland “were even tentatively associated with actual serious crimes.”

Once a marginal technology, license plate scanners are now widespread, minimally regulated, and employed by everyone from mall cops to landlords, with reams of plate data floating around the web—thanks in part to cop-tech hawkers convincing police that license-plate monitoring has gone “from a nice-to-have luxury to a can’t-operate-without system.” And big corporations have gotten into the game: Vigilant Solutions, a private, for-profit law enforcement contractor that sells both license plate readers and the data they collect, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Motorola Solutions.

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State Senator Scott Weiner, who commissioned the audit, called the lack of regulation “totally unacceptable,” saying in a public statement that his office was drafting legislation “to put an end to these privacy violations.”

Per the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has long opposed ALPRs, legislation like Weiner’s could ban license plate data collection by private companies, which would keep firms like Vigilant from gathering and selling massive driver data files. Lawmakers could limit data retention, like they’ve already done for the California Highway Patrol, demand more training, oversight, or audits for departments that use plate scanners, or even place a state-wide moratorium on their use.

California has long been a bellwether for rules on everything from auto emissions to police face recognition. With the nationwide spread of cheap, unregulated license plate scanners, any California restrictions on what cops do with your information could become a model for the rest of the country.

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Arrow 9 replies Author Time Post
Reply California Cops Are Collecting Info on Millions of Drivers Who Have Done Nothing Wrong (Original post)
babylonsister Feb 2020 OP
defacto7 Feb 2020 #1
virgogal Feb 2020 #3
defacto7 Feb 2020 #4
mokawanis Feb 2020 #8
Thomas Hurt Feb 2020 #2
KY_EnviroGuy Feb 2020 #5
WhiskeyGrinder Feb 2020 #6
KY_EnviroGuy Feb 2020 #7
Chainfire Feb 2020 #9

Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri Feb 21, 2020, 02:51 PM

1. Automated STAZI

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Response to defacto7 (Reply #1)

Fri Feb 21, 2020, 03:01 PM

3. Who really cares?

You are on a public road with license plates visible as the law requires.Privacy is a thing of the past.

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Response to virgogal (Reply #3)

Fri Feb 21, 2020, 03:06 PM

4. Well you surely don't.

Look up STAZI if you care to refresh your memory. We should care. Ask anyone who lived in East Germany before the wall came down. I'm intimately familiar with the condition.

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Response to virgogal (Reply #3)

Fri Feb 21, 2020, 03:29 PM

8. I really care

I'd prefer SOME privacy, like knowing that a cop can't just type my name or plate info into a computer and see where I've been lately.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri Feb 21, 2020, 02:58 PM

2. the gov't is a piker compared to the info collection and surveillance by the commercial sector.

the gov't just goes to them for the tech or data.

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Response to Thomas Hurt (Reply #2)

Fri Feb 21, 2020, 03:20 PM

5. K&R. Excellent point.

I believe big businesses swap databases clandestinely all the time, judging by the number of unsolicited phone calls and snail-mail I get.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri Feb 21, 2020, 03:23 PM

6. FTP.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri Feb 21, 2020, 03:25 PM

7. Real ID requires a lot of private info as well and it's nation-wide if.....

you want to do air travel after Oct. 1, or otherwise you must have a passport.

I agree as discussed on another thread that this could cause chaos for travelers in October......

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Sat Feb 22, 2020, 10:04 AM

9. Trolling for criminals

I don't see the technology as being much different that cops hiding behind billboards waiting on speeders. They are trolling for known criminals, stolen cars, etc. Easy arrests leads to early promotion. It is of no value for them to run my tag automatically and I don't care if they know where I shop for groceries.

Anyone who expects privacy in today's society and owns a mobile phone, a debit card, or posts on public forums, is a little silly. Privacy has sailed with the advancement of the ability to observe people. Facial recognition scans are working overtime. Walk down any street in any city and you are being videoed constantly. Every word you post on the forums is digested by a computer somewhere. Every time you search for a pair of shoes on the web, it is noted. Drive too fast on the interstate and you can be busted by airplanes circling out of sight. No new successful technology sits unused on a shelf; it is the nature of the beast no matter how distasteful we find it. It is not exactly headline news that surveillance will only become more and more efficient. Orwell warned us about this decades ago, he was only a little off on his timing.

Since I don't engage in any criminal behavior, the only thing I have to worry about is my postings on sites like this. As far as worrying about that, I am too passionate about the destruction of our nation to care. If the gov is after me, I have nowhere to run and no way to fight anyway; I try to not worry about things that I have no control over....

Big Brother, excuse me, Big Sister, Alexa is watching!

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