Friday, July 27, 2012

License Plate Readers Leading to Loss of Privacy

Texas Law Enforcement are now using license plate scanners to look up information on our vehicles. Much like a scanner used to read the speed at which your car is traveling, they just point and shoot. When they verify your plate, they have a database which pulls up the information on your car. It shows the officer if your registration is current, if your insurance is current, and also who the owner of the vehicle is. I know this because the police officer who falsely arrested me, after using one of these very scanners to pull me over, straight up told me! He had ran my license plate, and supposedly it had said that my insurance was expired. It wasn't, and I showed it to him. I had a suspended license at the time and was arrested. A few weeks later, when I went to court, the case was dropped. All due to the inefficiency of these scanners. That seems like a pretty big problem to me.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) released a document called, the Privacy Impact Assesment Report for the Utilization of License Plate Readers, in September of 2009. According to the IACP, the reason for releasing this document is to inform the public of the impact a License Plate Reader (LPR) can have on their privacy. In the introduction, the IACP states, "Agencies interested in operating a LPR system do not have access to a uniform set of rules
governing or even suggesting the appropriate uses and sharing of LPR data." Agencies? Who else is going to use a License Plate Reader besides the cops, right? Oh great, no uniform set of rules for that one. I feel better already!

Another problem that I have with LPR's is the fact that the information obtained through using this system is no doubt, going to be abused.  The reasononing behind the fact that using these scanners is not considered illegal, or an invasion of privacy, is that your license plate is in public view for anybody to see. Therefore, police officers have the right to do with that information what they will. Fine, I can accept that. It is one thing if your information is in public view. It is quite another if the officer then goes on to look up information on the citizen whom the vehicle is registered to. That, I consider to be an invasion of privacy, as well as an illegal search. 

According to the IACP, "even though LPR systems automate the collection of license plate numbers, it is the investigative process that identifies individuals." Virtually validating the fact that it is very possible, and extremely easy, for a law enforcement officer to match you to your license plate, the IACP states: "An individual with access to both databases may be able to link together information from the two databases and distinguish individuals. If the secondary information source is present on the same system or a closely-related system, then the data may be considered linked."

Furthermore, the IACP, very graciously, go on to inform us of why our First Amendment Rights are not being infringed upon by stating, "In order to associate with others in political activities or pursue religious beliefs, one must be able to go to the place where their associations meet. To assemble
and participate in a rally on behalf of a political candidate, or alternatively to demonstrate against a government policy, traveling is a prerequisite." So I am assuming that the streets of our cities and towns are no longer an area to be free, but to live in fear. Well citizens, is freedom really free? I guarantee you, we are getting further and further from it everyday.

I am truly worried about this new LPR system. I believe that it is only the first step in the government monitoring every move that we make. I truly wish that Texas was not participating in this. It is interesting, however, that a state so dead set on limited government would approve of using such an invasive product. Which leads me to ask myself, what is next?

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