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CBP does end run around warrants, simply buys license plate-reader data

Ars Technica – How does “unreasonable search” work when any agency can buy data from anywhere? “US Customs and Border Protection can track everyone’s cars all over the country thanks to massive troves of automated license plate scanner data, a new report reveals—and CBP didn’t need to get a single warrant to do it. Instead, the agency did just what hundreds of other businesses and investigators do: straight-up purchase access to commercial databases. CBP has been buying access to commercial automated license plate-reader (ALPR) databases since 2017, TechCrunch reports, and the agency says bluntly that there’s no real way for any American to avoid having their movements tracked. “CBP cannot provide timely notice of license plate reads obtained from various sources outside of its control,” the agency wrote in its most recent privacy assessment (PDF). “The only way to opt out of such surveillance is to avoid the impacted area, which may pose significant hardships and be generally unrealistic.” When reached by TechCrunch for comment, CBP spokesperson Matthew Dyman told the site, “How would you be able to opt out of a license plate reader? Can I opt out of speed cameras here in DC?” The same spokesperson told Vice Motherboard that the agency uses commercial ALPR databases for tasks such as “locating and apprehending the subjects of criminal investigations, illicit activity, or aliens who illegally entered the United States.” Previous reporting by Vice led the site to conclude that CBP is likely contracting with a company called Vigilant Solutions, but the agency would neither confirm nor deny Vice’s questions, and the company did not return Vice’s requests for comment…”

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