from the little-freedoms dept.
A bill in the California Senate would allow drivers to cover their license plates when parked to prevent automated license plate readers from reading them. Law enforcement (or somebody else) would have to manually lift the cover to obtain the license plate number:
If the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a San Diego-based Republican state senator have their way, it will soon become legal for Californians to cover their license plates while parked as a way to thwart automated license plate readers.
[...] As written, the new senate bill would allow for law enforcement to manually lift a cover, or flap, as a way to manually inspect a plate number. The idea is not only to prevent dragnet license plate data collection by law enforcement, but also by private companies. A California company, Vigilant Solutions, is believed to have the largest private ALPR database in America, with billions of records.
Ars is unaware of a commercially available product that would allow a license plate to be easily blocked in this fashion. A man in Florida was arrested earlier this year for using a miniature black screen that could be activated via remote control as a way to block his plate number when he passed through automated toll booths.
The new bill will come up before the California State Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on Tuesday, May 9—the first stop in the legislative process.
The California Police Chiefs Association has already filed its opposition to the bill. In a letter to Sen. Joel Anderson, the group argued that the bill would only benefit one group: "those who are trying to evade law enforcement and detection." Similarly, the bill has faced resistance from the California Public Parking Association, among other groups.
DHS Wants a National License Plate Tracking System
Debt Collectors Fight Privacy Advocates Over License Plate Readers
Arizona City Using Fake Cacti to Hide License Plate Cameras
Louisiana Governor Vetoes License Plate Reader Bill, Citing Privacy Concerns.
Open Source License Plate Reader: Little Brother Strikes Back!
Federal Agents Enlisted Local Police to Scan License Plates at Gun Shows
Amazon Wants to Scan Your License Plate
siliconwafer writes "The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is looking to acquire a vehicle license plate tracking system, to be used at the national level. According to the solicitation obtained by the Washington Post, commercial readers, supplied by a private company, would scan the plate of vehicles and store them in a "National License Plate Recognition" (NLPR) database. This is already being done at the state level, and privacy advocates are up in arms, with EFF and ACLU suing California over their automatic plate readers. Now that this has potential to become a broad and national program."
[ED Note: "Shortly after the Washington Post broke the story on the national plate reading system, it appears the DHS has shelved their plans for the tracking system, by order of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, at least in the interim."]
It's not just governments and law enforcement agencies that are advocating the use of license plate readers, as The Intercept's Lee Fang reports:
As privacy advocates battle to rein in the use of automated license plate readers (ALPRs), they're going up against another industry that benefits from this mass surveillance: lenders and debt collectors. [...] In Rhode Island, for instance, state Rep. Larry Valencia and state Sen. Gayle Goldin proposed bills in 2014 to prohibit the sale or trade of data collected by ALPRs, and to mandate that the state destroy records after one year.
I filed a records request and found two letters in opposition. One letter came from the[sic] Steven G. O'Donnell, on behalf of the Rhode Island State Police, arguing that law enforcement should be able to come up with its own internal procedures to govern the use of ALPRs. The other letter came from Danielle Fagre Arlow, senior vice president to the American Financial Services Association (AFSA), a trade group for consumer lending companies, some of which target the subprime market.
"Our particular interest in the bill," Arlow wrote, "is the negative impact it would have on ALPR’s valuable role in our industry – the ability to identify and recover vehicles associated with owners who have defaulted on their loans and are not responding to good-faith efforts to contact them." Arlow opposed the bill's restrictions on "how long data can be kept because access to historical data is important in determining where hard-to-find vehicles are likely located."
AFSA lobbied against several similar bills as they were proposed around the country. In Massachussetts, the group lobbied against a bill designed to destroy ALPR records after 90 days. AFSA argued that such a regime is unfair because "ALPR systems work best when they are used to string together the historical locations of vehicles."
[...] According to the ACLU of Rhode Island, the ALPR privacy bill died last session — notably, the bill failed after the consumer lending lobbyists voiced their opposition.
Unofficial Secrets is a newly launched and more frequently updated blog from First Look Media/The Intercept.
DHS Wants a National License Plate Tracking System
Ars Technica Obtains Large Dataset of Oakland Police Department License Plate Scans
Watch Out for "Automated Vehicle Occupancy Detection"
Claiming it's because there's no poles to mount them on, the City of Paradise Valley, Arizona began installing license plate readers inside towering, fake cacti:
LPRs are normally mounted on light poles and traffic lights to scan for stolen cars or vehicles involved in an Amber Alert, but cities and counties have been stashing them in dozens of different covert locations, from car's fog lamps to retrofitted ladders. And in Arizona, it's not uncommon to see antennas camouflaged as a cactus, so the decision – at least from an aesthetic point-of-view – makes sense.
[...] [Town manager Kevin] Burke said the cameras are not being put in fake cactus to be secretive, but because there are no light poles in the area to put them on. He says they're trying to make the cameras aesthetically pleasing. It's all part of a $2 million police technology upgrade the council passed last year.
Is it safe to say the cameras are operated by a bunch of pricks?
In a rare move against the advance of license plate readers, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) has vetoed a plan to acquire the scanners in the Bayou State. It had previously passed both houses of the Louisiana legislature overwhelmingly.
Many law enforcement agencies nationwide use these specialized cameras to scan cars and compare them at incredible speeds to a "hot list" of stolen or wanted vehicles. In some cases, that data is kept for weeks, months, or even years.
[Related]: Governor's Statement
Matt Hill, OpenALPR's founder, told Ars technica "I'm a big privacy advocate... now you've got LPR just in the hands of the government, which isn't a good thing."
Will "they" like it when "we" have a crowdsourced database of where and when congressmen, judges and cops go throughout their work day?
Does this level the playing field? Open yet another can of worms? Both?
Federal agents have persuaded police officers to scan license plates to gather information about gun-show customers, government emails show, raising questions about how officials monitor constitutionally protected activity.
Emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show agents with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency crafted a plan in 2010 to use license-plate readers—devices that record the plate numbers of all passing cars—at gun shows in Southern California, including one in Del Mar, not far from the Mexican border.
Agents then compared that information to cars that crossed the border, hoping to find gun smugglers, according to the documents and interviews with law-enforcement officials with knowledge of the operation.
First they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Muslim.
A drive-through for your groceries: According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, that's one of Amazon's many ambitions for the next version of its grocery-delivery service, Fresh. The company will set up a series of "convenience stores," the Journal reports, where it will sell basic goods like milk, produce, and meat.
Some locations will also allow people to pick up orders they placed online. Here's how the Journal described that feature:
For customers seeking a quicker checkout, Amazon will soon begin rolling out designated drive-in locations where online grocery orders will be brought to the car, the people said. The company is developing license-plate reading technology to speed wait times.
That detail about the license-plate readers caught my attention. Scanning the license plates of incoming cars makes sense: If your plate is connected to your Amazon account, the system could alert employees working in the store that you've arrived to pick up your grocery order before you even have a chance to park. If someone met you at the curb with your order in hand, you could be in and out of the lot in less than a minute.
But that's not the only reason implementing a license-plate system would be a smart move for Amazon. If the company can convince you to tell it which car is yours, it could link your license plate number to your Amazon account. Then, if it bought data from another company that shows where else your car has traveled, it could potentially use that information to develop an even more complete picture of your habits, preferences, and personality.
My state has a variety of specialty license places available for an extra ~$35 year, one of them has black text on a dark purple background. I picked that plate in order to reduce the accuracy of scanners trying to read my license plate. What other methods have people come up with?
On Thursday, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Board of Directors voted to approve a new policy that requires that it be notified if the local police department wishes to acquire new surveillance equipment.
BART is one of the largest mass transit agencies in northern California, with a system that stretches from the San Francisco International Airport, through San Francisco itself, across to Oakland, north to Antioch and south to Fremont—adjacent to Silicon Valley. This new policy puts it in line with a number of other regional cities that impose community oversight on the acquisition and use of surveillance technology. It is believed to be one of the first, if not the first, such policies for a transportation agency in the nation.
[...] The new BART policy was approved just one day after the Bay Area News Group reported that BART police had been using license plate readers at the parking garage at MacArthur station in Oakland for several months beginning in January 2017. The data collected was, in turn, shared with a "fusion center" of federal law enforcement data known as the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center.
Somehow, the MacArthur license plate reader (LPR) system was installed months after the Board had voted in 2016 to delay installation of the high-speed scanners until a policy for their use could be drafted.
Related: California Senate Bill Could Thwart Automated License Plate Readers
California Senate Rejects License Plate Privacy Shield Bill
Forget Scanning License Plates; Cops Will Soon ID You Via Your Roof Rack
Los Angeles to Become the First City to Use Body Scanners in Rail Transit Systems
California Officials Admit to Using License Plate Readers to Monitor Welfare Recipients