EFF – A Massive Expansion of Plate Data Collection

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on February 19, 2014

National License Plate Recognition Database: What It Is and Why It’s a Bad Idea: ”…Automated License Plate Reader or ALPR cameras already scan and record the plates of millions of cars across the country. Law enforcement agencies in large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and New York have databases of millions of plates—and these databases will only increase in size over time.  A 2011 survey of more than 70 police departments showed that 79 percent used ALPR technology and 85 percent expected to acquire or increase use in the next five years. On average, these agencies expected that 25 percent of police vehicles would be equipped with license plate readers by 2016. However, DHS doesn’t want to limit its data collection to law enforcement agencies. It also wants to include data from “asset recovery specialists” (repo companies) and “access control systems” (private security cameras in parking lots like malls). Private companies already collect data on a nationwide basis and may have more data than all law enforcement records combined. Just a few years ago, Vigilant Solutions had a database of about 700 million plates, and MVTrac claimed it had records on “a large majority” of registered vehicles in the U.S. TLO, another company, which was recently acquired by the credit reporting agency and data aggregator TransUnion, has a “massive database of one BILLION vehicle sightings” with “up to 50 million new sightings” added each month. While some states have tried to limit the power of these companies to collect data, they’ve fought back hard on First Amendment and other grounds.”

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