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Massachusetts Plans To Keep Track of Where Your Car Has Been 521

Posted by Soulskill
from the dude-where's-my-car dept.
Attila Dimedici writes "Massachusetts wants to establish a database with the information gathered by license plate scanners installed in police cars. The scanners will scan license plates of every car the police vehicle passes and transmit that information (along with the location) to a database that will be made available to various government agencies. The data wil be kept indefinitely."
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Massachusetts Plans To Keep Track of Where Your Car Has Been

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  • by Tsingi (870990) <graham.rick @ g m a i l .com> on Friday July 22, 2011 @01:37PM (#36848332)
    This is about as 1984 as it gets. Not only do Americans have no rights anymore, their movements are tracked by the government.

    Fascism.

    • The fact that Mass. would even put together a plan like this shows you just how weakened the 4th Amendment has become. Of all the amendments in the Bill of Rights, this one, it seems to me, is the one that's the most gone.

      • by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Friday July 22, 2011 @02:14PM (#36848952)
        The issue here is not a 4th amendment violation, at least directly. It's a technology advance that combines things that aren't 4th amendment violations 'what a police officer sees while patrolling' into a fully itemized searchable tracking database that does violate the 4th amendment's 'spirit'.

        The data 'seen' at the time is not 4th amendment violating, but the storage and persistence of said data *should* be a 4th amendment violation. Technology is trumping even the Constitution and we need to update our concepts to match what is now possible for the government.
    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday July 22, 2011 @01:51PM (#36848578)

      This is about as 1984 as it gets.

      Lets not get into hyperbole here, lest people take us all for nutters and disregard our warnings that this is an invasion of privacy.. Government-mandated propaganda and webcams in every home is more 1984 than cars being tracked, but this is pretty horrible.

    • by tibit (1762298)

      So, if a corporation would do that, it's OK, but if a govt. does it, it's not? I think it's time to decide either way and make the choice apply to everyone...

      • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Friday July 22, 2011 @02:14PM (#36848966) Journal

        Notice how much fun we would have if citizens reported the locations of all the police cars and speed traps? But no, they get to track us, where I'm sure "for a fee" the media can snoop to find out if the pastor went to the atheist rally or something.

      • by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Friday July 22, 2011 @02:17PM (#36849028)

        So, if a corporation would do that, it's OK, but if a govt. does it, it's not?

        Actually yes that's correct. What do you think would happen to that corporation if it came out they were tracking everybody like this? They'd be run out of business quite fast. (mobile phones are a different story as people receive significant benefit from said 'tracking'; i.e. the mobile connectivity).

        The 'government' can't be 'boycotted' in the manner of a corporation so yes they aren't supposed to be allowed to do such things. Corporations also don't enforce the laws (theoretically anyway) so they don't have the leverage the government does over your freedoms either.

        • by jmcvetta (153563)

          What do you think would happen to that corporation if it came out they were tracking everybody like this? They'd be run out of business quite fast.

          False. Acxiom [acxiom.com] for example collects incredibly detailed dossiers on every American citizen, ostensibly for "marketing" purposes. But you can bet your last dollar they have some big, fat pipes from their datacenter up to McLean & Ft. Meade.

          So why don't consumers run this kind of company out of business? It's simple - these businesses make money from the purchasers of the dossiers, not from the citizens who are tracked against their will. There is basically no legal way, and certainly no way that is p

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 22, 2011 @01:38PM (#36848338)

    ... of making a reasonable and thoughtful comment. Instead, I'm going to just say "fuck you Massachusetts," because that's really all they deserve.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      Police are already a hive mind. Radios and records departments did that a long time ago.

      This just makes them one tick more cyborgy.

  • How to defeat the computer eye without defacing your plate? Try to wash it out with IR? Something else?

    Would the scanner stop the cops every time there was a misread?

    • by TheSpoom (715771)

      In Soviet Russia, the cops would stop YOU every time there was a misread. No wait, I meant here. It'll be considered reasonable suspicion, just wait.

  • by isotope23 (210590) on Friday July 22, 2011 @01:44PM (#36848458) Homepage Journal

    "Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
    O'er the land of the free or the home of the slave?"

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blair1q (305137)

      Dude. Please go read about slavery, then never compare having your license plate kept in a database to being chained in the hull of a ship for months, sold, forced to labor, quartered in a shack, bred like a dog, and fed garbage for the rest of your short, disease-ridden life.

      Moron.

    • by torgis (840592)

      "Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O'er the land of the free or the home of the slave?"

      Subject: Stop Work Notice or Notice of Violation
      Site Address: slashdot A.P.N.: 210590 Case Number: fkall

      Dear sir,
      On 7/22/2011 the State of Massachusetts posted a Stop Work Notice or Notice of Violation on your post for "illegal star-spangled banner pole height".
      As of this date, no permits have been issued to clear the Stop Work Notice or Notice of Violation. You must apply for all required permits and approvals, pay all associated fees or take necessary action to correct the violation within 30 days of this notice. No permits, licenses, or other entitlements may be issues by any State Department until this violation has been cleared.

      Sincerely,
      The State of Massachusetts

      I'm gonna say that's a no. No, it doesn't.

  • by Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) on Friday July 22, 2011 @01:45PM (#36848476)

    I don't know how many states are doing this now, but they also under at least SOME circumstances share with the feds as well. Vermont I KNOW for certain has had this for some time, though far from all PDs have the equipment yet. They're way ahead of the civil rights people on this one, and their official line is you're in public, you don't have a right to privacy in public, and "oh we keep it all secure and only accessible under controlled conditions" which of course means every intel agency in the govt has it of course...

    Truthfully though, this stuff is inevitable, the issue is the sneaky way they're kind of sliding into it. There was NO debate on this at all in our state.

    • by Jeng (926980)

      Is Vermont storing a database of where and when everyone's license plates have been scanned, or is it they just have scanners that connect to a database that lets the cops know that the car is stolen or being searched for in some way?

      • Yes, they retain this data. I've confirmed that. I don't know how long it is retained, but it IS uploaded. I've pointed out to some people over there that this seems quite dubious, but that's what they do and they're not interested in whether people like it or not.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      I don't see why there would be, since they probably aren't breaking any law by doing it.

    • by sjames (1099)

      So, of course, if the police were all to be followed by citizen chase cars who report their position on a live map and offer a live video feed, there will be no objections at all since the car is in public and has no expectations of privacy, right?

  • fight this massachusetts citizens, or indeed deserve the epithet "masshole"

    • by Ksevio (865461)
      Should we fight Google driving around doing the same thing while we're at it?
      • The same thing? Is Google really maintaining a continuously updated, searchable database of the license plate number and location of every car it captures on street view? It seems to me they aren't doing anything like that.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday July 22, 2011 @01:49PM (#36848544)

    I think the problem rests in old case law, developed when automation like this was just science fiction, that anything not on private property is fair game. We need a new legal concept of "public but ephemeral" that applies to information that is normally soon forgotten like who was in a parking lot a week ago. Any collection of ephemeral data that occurs without a warrant should itself expire within a short period of time as well should be distribution limited - i.e. no sending it off to another database at the FBI that is exempt.

    That may still be too much of a slippery slope, because once its collected there will always be pressure to extend the retention and expand the distribution. All it would take is one kid getting kidnapped and the license plate data expiring a day before the cops thought to look at it and voila, ready-made emotional argument to push for doubling retention time.

    In Florida, the cops download a list of license plates of interest and only check scanned plates against the list instead of uploading everything they scan to a database. I'm not too happy with that either because I don't think that requiring a driver to regularly prove their innocence is valid, even if it is done passively, but at least it is miles better than what Massachusetts is planning.

    • by pz (113803)

      Damn, and I just ran out of mod points. Very insightful comment!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      In Florida, the cops download a list of license plates of interest and only check scanned plates against the list instead of uploading everything they scan to a database

      Ever since I moved to Florida, I've wondered why almost everyone backs into parking spaces, rather than pulling in as most people did in Illinois.

      Someone finally explained to me that it is because in Florida, cars only have a real license plate, and by backing in, that plate ins't visible to passing police cars. In Illinois, cars have p

      • by jmcvetta (153563)

        I understand the desire for privacy, but it does worry me that so many people here seem to feel the need to "hide" from the police.

        Most decent, hard-working, non-violent citizens whom I know are as afraid of the cops as they are of criminals. Most people realize that nothing good ever comes from interacting with the police. And this is in California, where our cops are well behaved by comparison to many other states.

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday July 22, 2011 @02:03PM (#36848808)

      I think the problem rests in old case law, developed when automation like this was just science fiction, that anything not on private property is fair game. We need a new legal concept of "public but ephemeral" that applies to information that is normally soon forgotten like who was in a parking lot a week ago.

      I agree, in general, though there is room to quibble about whether the gap in the law is best sourced to "old case law" or to the fact that the Constitution itself doesn't consider the issue of public ephemeral data.

      Any collection of ephemeral data that occurs without a warrant should itself expire within a short period of time as well should be distribution limited - i.e. no sending it off to another database at the FBI that is exempt.

      That may still be too much of a slippery slope, because once its collected there will always be pressure to extend the retention and expand the distribution. All it would take is one kid getting kidnapped and the license plate data expiring a day before the cops thought to look at it and voila, ready-made emotional argument to push for doubling retention time.

      Alternatively, you could retain the data indefinitely, but require a warrant for the search of the historical data, specifying the search parameters and providing the cause justifying the search. This would give non-current public ephemeral data similar protection to traditional private data, while at the same time not destroying the data itself. Since the data can be searched with a warrant issued with cause, this eliminates the risk of mandated destruction destroying evidence that could have solved a crime -- and thus eliminates the opportunity for exploiting that as the basis for lobbying for extension in the "casual search" window for the data.

  • by torgis (840592) on Friday July 22, 2011 @01:50PM (#36848564) Journal
    I'd like to propose a new line of designer license plate, the CAPTCHA-plate. You heard it here first, folks.
  • just another database tracking all my movements. like at&t, apple and google.

  • by Steauengeglase (512315) on Friday July 22, 2011 @01:56PM (#36848688)

    Guess I won't be helping out with that after school reading program in that bad neighborhood.

  • Everyone should just start phoning the police, FBI, DHS et al and letting them know where you and who you are with every time you change locations. In addition you should forward them copies of all the emails that you send and receive.
    • Imagine only 10,000 people, each calling the MA Executive Office of Public Safety every ten minutes to tell them their exact location.

      "You wanted the information, so I figured I'd save you the trouble and money of purchasing these systems and just tell you myself."

  • You want to track me and my car in your state? Fine, let me see and track via public website every single location of all elected personnel working in that state then, starting with the Senators. Hey, might as well see where my elected officials are at, especially while "on" duty.

    Oh, I'm sorry, shoe on the other foot doesn't fit so well? No room for privacy and freedom? Gee, go figure.

    Massholes.

  • I once told my IT manager, "Just because we can doesn't mean we should." Technology, very unfortunately, has erroded our rights simply because the "government" whether local or not can do these things without accountability or scrutiny. When you do make noises, they justify it by citing public safety, the welfare for women and children, and other politically correct BS. I don't think there is a corner left in life to find some privacy. It won't be log before *everything* you do is logged.
  • by MoldySpore (1280634) on Friday July 22, 2011 @02:08PM (#36848880)

    I work with dozens of police organizations that use license plate readers. They are extremely effective and even a small fleet of cars can easily gather thousands upon tens of thousands of license plates a day in their jurisdiction. Tracking people via this technology is a scary thing to think about because it would be extremely effective. I disagree with their use in regular police operations, so this database is just plain crazy in my mind. This should be fought against by anyone who values the small amount of privacy we have left in this country.

    I can't stress enough how crazy this would be if this happened and started getting adopted outside of MA. This would be one of the worst invasions of privacy ever. There is already enough tracking that goes on with the toll passes (EZ-Pass, Sun Pass, etc) in all the states that have them as well as all the cameras that are up everywhere in most major cities. But that should be expected, as you are voluntarily signing up for the convenience of speedier tolls and most of the camera systems are used to help detect crimes (such as ShotSpotter hearing gun shots and dispatching police). But if you choose to not have any kind of electronic pass or GPS in your car, there should be a reasonable expectation of privacy.

  • 6th Amendment (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstrickler (920733) on Friday July 22, 2011 @02:09PM (#36848892)
    The 6th Amendment [usconstitution.net] to the US Constitution states [emphasis added]:

    In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

    Just how do you confront a video recorder? How do you prove it hasn't been altered? How to you prove the date/time is accurate? How do you prove who was driving?

    Can they go back and issue citations for expired registrations based upon these recordings? For how long? What about parking citations?

    Will the videos be available via FOIA requests? If so, what's to stop a stalker, spouse, or other individual from using these in civil cases, or even for extortion? What happens when the preacher's/politician's car is spotted parked near an "adult video store", strip club, etc.? Even if they're "not available" via FOIA requests, people are corruptible and someone will get their hands on videos that they can use for criminal purposes.

    There are just too many unanswered questions. While they might be able to make a case for keeping the recordings for 3-6 months, anything longer just presents too much potential for misuse/abuse, and even those short periods will allow the unscrupulous the opportunity to steal videos that they can use to blackmail others.

    Note to Massachusetts' politicians: Such videos will be used against you at some point. Count on it. If you don't care about the privacy of the citizens, at least think of your self interest before voting for this.

    • by jpvlsmv (583001)

      Note to Massachusetts' politicians: Such videos will be used against you at some point. Count on it. If you don't care about the privacy of the citizens, at least think of your self interest before voting for this.

      Which is why the first thing any legislative reform should do is apply personal liability for the sponsors of unconstitutional laws.

      --Joe

  • Is it legal for me to put a webcam at the end of my driveway, and have it recognize and record license plates of passing cars?

    Is it legal for me to put a laptop/GPS in my car which does the same thing?

    Is it legal for lots of people in Massachusetts to do this, and share their data?

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