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posted by CoolHand on Tuesday May 09 2017, @05:44PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
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.

Related:
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


Original Submission

Related Stories

DHS Wants a National License Plate Tracking System 43 comments

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."]

Debt Collectors Fight Privacy Advocates Over License Plate Readers 40 comments

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.

Related stories:

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"

Arizona City Using Fake Cacti to Hide License Plate Cameras 33 comments

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?

Louisiana Governor Vetoes License Plate Reader Bill, Citing Privacy Concerns. 32 comments

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.

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/06/louisiana-governor-vetoes-license-plate-reader-bill-citing-privacy-concerns/

[Related]: Governor's Statement

Senate Bill No. 250


Original Submission

Open Source License Plate Reader: Little Brother Strikes Back! 86 comments

If you have an IP-enabled security camera, you can download some free, open-source software from GitHub and boom—you have a fully functional automated license plate reader, reports ArsTechnica .

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?


Original Submission

Federal Agents Enlisted Local Police to Scan License Plates at Gun Shows 42 comments

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.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/gun-show-customers-license-plates-come-under-scrutiny-1475451302

First they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Muslim.


Original Submission

Amazon Wants to Scan Your License Plate 31 comments

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.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/10/amazon-wants-to-scan-your-license-plate/503747/

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?


Original Submission

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Board Approves Surveillance Oversight Policy 19 comments

Bay Area transit system approves new surveillance-oversight policy

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


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 09 2017, @05:49PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 09 2017, @05:49PM (#507004)

    Cops will need to be trained to lift license plate covers. Taxpayers can't afford the unjustifiable expense.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by Gaaark on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:16PM

      by Gaaark (41) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:16PM (#507013) Journal

      They just need to be told to tazer the cover, then pepper spray it, then yell "down on the ground, down on the ground", then shoot it, then read it it's rights, then tazer it again, shoot it, check if it's black, shoot it again, shoot it again, shoot it again, kick it a few times, shoot it again, check to make sure (with a flashlight) that it IS indeed black, shoot it again.

      THEN lift it up to check the plate.

      --
      --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:22PM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:22PM (#507017) Journal

      Cop sues privacy-minded driver over back injury

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:54PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:54PM (#507046)

        What about suing the donut provider?

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday May 10 2017, @03:07AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 10 2017, @03:07AM (#507261) Journal

      Cops wont bother to get out of the car.

      https://www.amazon.com/Electric-Powered-License-Plate-Frame/dp/B001TLLZ4E [amazon.com]

      These things are quite common.
      Usually tied into your ignition so they deploy on the road, and hide your plate when you park.
      Not illegal at all when parking on private property. And its not entirely clear if it would be illegal parking on the street.

      --
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  • (Score: 2) by arulatas on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:18PM (6 children)

    by arulatas (3600) on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:18PM (#507015)

    Couldn't they put a set of infrared lights around the plate to block the reading via automated methods? There by not obscuring the plate from visual inspection?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2oYReMaS4A [youtube.com]

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    ----- 10 turns around
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Scruffy Beard 2 on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:26PM (3 children)

      by Scruffy Beard 2 (6030) on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:26PM (#507019)

      Notice that was filmed in an garage with artificial light.

      In full sun, the ambient light will overwhelm the IR light.

      • (Score: 2) by arulatas on Tuesday May 09 2017, @07:38PM (2 children)

        by arulatas (3600) on Tuesday May 09 2017, @07:38PM (#507075)

        Thanks. I actually looked up some other sources (people not trying to sell you something) after I posted that. I found one that did some tests and they found the LED lighting wouldn't overload the cameras for most infra red LED lighting.

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        ----- 10 turns around
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 09 2017, @11:57PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 09 2017, @11:57PM (#507197)

          Better idea - get vinyl letters in the same font as your license plate and put them on either side. That way your plate is not obscured, but the OCR software will pick up the extra characters and read the 'wrong' plate number. Swap the characters every few weeks/months as you see fit to further frustrate tracking.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10 2017, @09:04AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10 2017, @09:04AM (#507441)
    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:27PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:27PM (#507022)

      Plate has to be readable when the vehicle is in motion. You're suggesting putting lights on the plate when it doesn't run, which sounds like a DieHard business plan.

    • (Score: 2) by Kromagv0 on Tuesday May 09 2017, @08:49PM

      by Kromagv0 (1825) on Tuesday May 09 2017, @08:49PM (#507114) Homepage

      Unfortunately hoping to get a lens flare like effect doesn't seem to work all [workingsi.com] that well [workingsi.com], even with better LEDs than those crappy rope ones. I think one's best bet would be to have a large area around the plate that is just dumping out a massive amount of IR (think several hundred watts as you would like to have it be a bright or brighter than the sun) and really fuck up the exposure so your plate is underexposed by like 12 stops

      --
      T-Shirts and bumper stickers [zazzle.com] to offend someone
  • (Score: 2) by EvilSS on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:31PM

    by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:31PM (#507026)
    I'm sure this will generate plenty of revenue from tickets for people who forget to uncover their plates when they start driving away.
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Nerdfest on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:32PM (2 children)

    by Nerdfest (80) on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:32PM (#507027)

    argued that the bill would only benefit one group: "those who are trying to evade law enforcement and detection."

    Well, them and people who actually care about privacy. The big problem with this that I can see is that they're *keeping* this data. If they're merely looking for stolen cars there's no reason to do that.

    • (Score: 2) by Arik on Tuesday May 09 2017, @08:09PM

      by Arik (4543) on Tuesday May 09 2017, @08:09PM (#507089) Journal
      "Well, them and people who actually care about privacy."

      Hush, we don't exist.

      "The big problem with this that I can see is that they're *keeping* this data. If they're merely looking for stolen cars there's no reason to do that."

      The reason is simple - bureaucracies NEVER willingly give up ANYTHING. If they are allowed to collect the data it will be virtually impossible to prevent them from keeping the data, and eventually finding other uses for it. Lawful or not.

      You can conceivably get a private company to do this - you have to write very harsh contract conditions and this won't happen as things are today, but at least it's conceivably possible. You can't do that with a government bureaucracy. EVEN IF you pass laws with very harsh penalties that apply to them, they will not be consistently enforced against the government itself and will therefore not produce compliance. We have plenty of laws on the books that the government simply ignores already.
      --
      If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
    • (Score: 2) by EvilSS on Tuesday May 09 2017, @10:14PM

      by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 09 2017, @10:14PM (#507156)
      "People behind on their car payments" would probably also be big supporters of this. Almost all private plate detection cameras that roam streats and parking lots scanning parked cars are repo men, or people collecting data for repo men.
  • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:58PM (2 children)

    by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday May 09 2017, @06:58PM (#507050) Journal

    Isn't this a duplicate article? [soylentnews.org] which was published 9.5 hours ago?

    • (Score: 2) by drussell on Tuesday May 09 2017, @07:00PM

      by drussell (2678) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 09 2017, @07:00PM (#507052) Journal

      Definitely seems related :)

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 09 2017, @09:57PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 09 2017, @09:57PM (#507146)

      That's because of time zones. One story is for Europe, the other is for America, and the one coming up will be fore Australasia.

  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday May 09 2017, @07:11PM

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 09 2017, @07:11PM (#507056) Journal

    In principle, I don't mind the police reading my license plate with certain limitations. The automated reader can read my plate, search its local database to ensure that my plate it not deserving of attention, and then discard my plate number. Simple automation of what a human police officer might do. Read plate, check it against list on a clipboard and move on.

    License plates are for the purpose of identifying the vehicle.

    What I don't accept: the police license reader interrogating a centralized database. That opens the possibility of central collection of all of the plates being read, and by which police unit, and where that police unit is located. Even if the police department doesn't collect this, the NSA might. I would accept that the police server can transmit updated license plate lists out to its units, which then update their local databases. This is no different than a police car having a paper printed list of license plate numbers to look for.

    What should be forbidden by law. The reading or collection of license plates by an automated reader by a private organization without some kind of state license to do so for some purpose other than to collect information about me. A legitimate purpose might be for a company to develop and improve license plate reader technology -- but not keep any of the data it read. Troll booths should also not retain license plate numbers for longer than the duration of the time it takes to ensure that you have paid the troll.

    Before computers and computer vision systems, none of this was possible. The large scale automation changes things in a way that is significant. The government could keep records of where your vehicle goes. Combined with a cameras everywhere system, they could even keep track of who gets into and out of vehicles and put together a massive picture. Combined it with cell phone information.

    --
    You can not have fun on the weak days but you can on the weakened.
  • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Tuesday May 09 2017, @08:15PM (4 children)

    by Grishnakh (2831) on Tuesday May 09 2017, @08:15PM (#507091)

    So the state might pass a law allowing citizens to cover their license plates to prevent the cops (who are employees of the government) from reading them willy-nilly while parked and keeping extensive records on them.

    Why not just pass a law forbidding the cops from collecting so much data? Are the cops not bound by state law?

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday May 09 2017, @08:32PM (3 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 09 2017, @08:32PM (#507103) Journal

      Not only should the cops not be able to keep license plate data, along with the time and place it was read; private persons or companies should not be allowed to do this either.

      --
      You can not have fun on the weak days but you can on the weakened.
      • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Tuesday May 09 2017, @09:32PM (2 children)

        by Grishnakh (2831) on Tuesday May 09 2017, @09:32PM (#507133)

        Ok, but there again, can't that be done by simply passing a law against it? European nations are pretty famous for their data privacy laws; California could do the same thing. Of course, it wouldn't apply nationwide, but it should still have a pretty big effect (since so many companies have operations in CA, and it's to protect CA citizens and residents). And it's a whole lot more realistic to just pass a law, and then use the courts and heavy fines to punish law-breakers, than to expect people to put automatic James-Bond-style license-plate blockers on their cars.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10 2017, @12:02AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10 2017, @12:02AM (#507200)

          Ok, but there again, can't that be done by simply passing a law against it?

          Scanning plates is BIG business. Every repo man has a scanner now and they all upload to mega databases that sell that info to other repo men and PIs, police, the DEA, insurance companies, and a bunch of other groups you would never guess.

          Thus any such law will engender a huge legal battle involving freedom of speech (the freedom to communicate what you see in public).
          I'm all for having that battle, it needs to happen (and Big Data needs to lose badly) but it will not be "simple."

          • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday May 10 2017, @02:07PM

            by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 10 2017, @02:07PM (#507539) Journal

            I wouldn't mind if Repo men had a local database in their vehicle of which cars they are looking for, including cars that other Repo men are looking for. I wouldn't mind if their scanner read plates, checked them with the list of cars to Repo, and then discarded all plates that are not of interest to any Repo man.

            What I want to avoid is anyone building a database of where all cars were at certain times. I don't want anyone being able to later, interrogate some database they built to track the patterns of movement of people.

            I think the automation of legitimate reasons to read plates is okay. In order words, to automate what a human might do. A policeman driving around looking for plates that are on a list on a clipboard, and not remembering all the plates he might have looked at which were not on that list. Similarly, a Repo many looking for plates on a list, but not remembering plates he saw that were not on the list. License plates exist to identify the vehicle. And there are legitimate reasons to read them. But never before was it practical to build databases of where cars were spotted at certain location-time coordinates.

            In other words, if police are looking for stolen vehicles, suspect vehicles, or vehicles wanted for some other reason (parking tickets), I have no problem making it easier to find them -- as long as it is done in a way that makes it virtually impossible to build a database of where all cars each time a police car or repo cars passes by. I also think that repo menu using this technology should probably need some kind of state license so that the state knows who is lawfully using license plate readers.

            --
            You can not have fun on the weak days but you can on the weakened.
  • (Score: 2) by Snotnose on Tuesday May 09 2017, @11:21PM

    by Snotnose (1623) on Tuesday May 09 2017, @11:21PM (#507185)

    Scan my plate to see if my car is stolen? GOOD!! Scan my plate and hang onto it for 24 hours to see if I was involved in a crime? Ok, I guess. Scan my plate and keep the info for 48 hours? Why? Scan my plate and keep that data forever? Oh hell no, Go fuck yourselves.

    --
    The dishes in the sink are giving me dirty looks again.
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