Rare: by Nick Morpus
A year ago, the Department of Homeland Security began a new initiative to track license plates nationwide. Luckily it was abandoned due to overwhelming opposition over privacy concerns.
Organizations such as the ACLU warned that license plate databases could be used to track the locations of all American drivers, criminal and non-criminal.
The ACLU even released a report—“You Are Being Tracked”—which detailed the issues with several localities that allow license plate readers. Authorities can keep tabs on people’s movements with little regard for privacy. (I highly recommend reading the report and viewing the slideshow on the ACLU’s website concerning the use of this technology.)
Now the Washington Post reports that DHS has renewed its interest in adopting such a nationwide program and is seeking bids from private companies to implement it. However, according to DHS, they are taking precautionary measures to ensure that privacy rights and civil liberties will not be violated:
“These restrictions will provide essential privacy and civil liberty protections, while enhancing our agents’ and officers’ ability to locate and apprehend suspects who could pose a threat to national security and public safety,” DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron said in a statement. The solicitation was posted publicly Thursday.
A year ago, the ACLU warned that last year’s “victory” in stopping the bids was not so much a victory as a minor delay in implementation. The group said the database DHS wants already exists:
There was never a plan to “build” a plate database. A database almost exactly like the one DHS describes is a current fact. It is operated by a private corporation called Vigilant Solutions, contains nearly two billion records of our movements, and grows by nearly 100 million records per month. As I explain in greater detail here, DHS likely just wanted broader access to tap it.
Privacy advocates are skeptical of DHS’ “reassurances” over privacy, according to the Washington Post:
“If this goes forward, DHS will have warrantless access to location information going back at least five years about virtually every adult driver in the U.S., and sometimes to their image as well,” said Gregory T. Nojeim, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology.
Can we blame them after all the times we were “reassured” by the NSA that massive data collection of our Internet activities and phone calls was not happening? There is also the constitutionality of such programs to consider.
More at Rare
Disclaimer: This was not written by Lorra B.