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posted by CoolHand on Tuesday May 09 2017, @05:44PM   Printer-friendly
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.

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  • (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.

    When trying to solve a problem don't ask who suffers from the problem, ask who profits from the problem.
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