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Transportation Privacy

Florida Town Stores License Plate Camera Images For Ten Years 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-know-what-you-did-the-last-10-summers dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Yet another privacy concern story, this time from Florida. The Longboat Key police have their new license plate camera up and running, but according to the police chief, this one stores all images as 'evidence' for up to ten years. When questioned about the possibility for abuses of this camera's historical record, the chief said, 'There are regulations, policies and laws in place that prohibit that kind of abuse. And if abuse is discovered, it's punished.' What could possibly go wrong?"
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Florida Town Stores License Plate Camera Images For Ten Years

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  • by meerling (1487879) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:11AM (#44627011)
    The same thing that always goes wrong, somebody will abuse it because they can.
    • by Skapare (16644)

      And then they will get away with it because cops don't care about enforcing laws that apply to cops.

      • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:44AM (#44627179)

        And then they will get away with it because cops don't care about enforcing laws that apply to cops.

        Indeed. No police officer has ever been disciplined, or even reprimanded, for abusing license plate photo data. So the chief's assurances mean zilch.

        • Uh... "not ever" is not accurate (because I know of a local situation in which one was). Bad enough that this has often been the trend; best not to advocate extremes by saying "No officer ever".
          • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

            by ShanghaiBill (739463)

            Uh... "not ever" is not accurate (because I know of a local situation in which one was). Bad enough that this has often been the trend; best not to advocate extremes by saying "No officer ever".

            Unless you can provide a citation (which I doubt you can), I will stick with "no officer ever".

            • by Anonymous Coward
              Doesn't matter whether Jane Q can or not. The threat of penalty for government workers is a red herring when dealing with stuff that can be abused. It's always best to prevent the thing that can be abused before it is abused.
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Police officer Victor “Manny” Pellot has been fired for stalking and ... misusing police resources and databases

              http://www.eagletribune.com/haverhill/x218351649/Haverhill-cop-fired-for-stalking

              http://ogs-silentcrimes.blogspot.com/2013/07/haverhill-former-police-officer.html

              Officer Russell Nasby was fired ... used the state driver and vehicle database

              http://stalkingvictims.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=277&t=8292

              http://staugustine.com/news/2010-03-11/bunnell-officer-fired-over-stalking-allegations

              Gee, so hard to search online for cops who got fired for being assholes.
              Posting AC so I don't erase the Flamebait mod I gave ShanghaiBill for being an asshole.

            • Unless you can provide a citation (which I doubt you can), I will stick with "no officer ever".

              I don't have an actual citation, because it was too long ago. But it was all over the newspapers.

              A local officer was caught using the computerized police record system to look up information on his girlfriend. By State law, those records can only be accessed if there is probably cause or, at the very least, "reasonable suspicion" that the person has broken the law. Officers have to log their accesses and give reasons. He couldn't come up with a good reason.

              He is no longer a police officer.

              That is n

          • by anagama (611277)

            Disciplined how -- had his donuts cut off for a week, or fired? Somehow, I'm going to guess it was the former.

            • I suspect you don't know very many police officers and are basing you comments off of what you've seen on TV sitcoms. Correct?

              Having worked closely with multiple departments over the course of almost a decade, I can tell you that the number who fill their faces with donuts is actually pretty few. Today, most are extremely fit as the image they need to present is imposing and strong. Donut boy is more likely to encounter a problem than an officer who looks like he will kick your ass should you try somethi

              • by Anonymous Coward

                "But, that number is actually quite few. You are more likely to encounter an errant office worker than an abusive police officer."

                This is flat out bullshit. Completely and utterly.

                "If you have encountered an abusive cop, I would suspect you probably were in the wrong in the first place, no?"

                No. In any case, its not as if that would excuse or explain the abusive behavior.

                The single largest determinant to police behavior is department policy/attitude/culture. There are large, visible differences in police be

              • by T-Bone-T (1048702)

                The Pig Stand in San Antonio, TX often has at least 2-3 cop cars in the parking lot every time I go by.

              • Yes, some police officers do abuse their powers. But, that number is actually quite few. You are more likely to encounter an errant office worker than an abusive police officer.

                The problem here is that encountering an errant office worker isn't likely to result in legal troubles for me, but encountering an abusive officer often does. More to the point, the concept that very few police officers abuse their powers is ludicrous in my experince with many police officers. The vast majority of officers don't maliciously abuse their power or do stuff that's extreme or egregious, but I've never met an officer who hasn't done stuff like running criminal checks on their neighbors just be

          • by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @03:48AM (#44627833) Homepage

            I know of a local situation in which one was

            A few weeks suspension with pay isn't punishment (the rest of the world calls that a"holiday").

      • Obviously they'd be just fine with a process that logs all queries to the database, including who queried it and what they queried, and keeps that log for at least 10 years, and having regular audits of the log files? Because they're not doing anything wrong, so they totally shouldn't mind a bit, right?

    • by donaldm (919619)
      From the article.

      There are regulations, policies and laws in place that prohibit that kind of abuse

      Nice and very clear now please answer the following:

      1. regulations - Great, what are they?
      2. policies - Wonderful, what are they?
      3. laws - Well we can't beat that, what are they?

      Worrying. But hey it can't happen in Australia ... err wait!

    • by Shavano (2541114)

      The same thing that always goes wrong, somebody will abuse it because they can.

      Can you explain to those of us to whom it's not obvious how the data are likely to be abused?

    • Nothing could go wrong, actually. When you are in public you have no expectation of privacy, making it impossible to violate same. I don't like it, but that is the law. Unless and until it changes this is one of the biggest cases of "nothing to see here, move along" that I have seen in quite some time.
  • fuck.... this is getting to be way over kill....

  • Welcome to Earth (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:19AM (#44627057) Homepage

    "'There are regulations, policies and laws in place that prohibit that kind of abuse. And if abuse is discovered, it's punished."

    It looks like you're new here. Welcome to Earth. Tell me more about your planet; what color is the sky there?

    Here are a few starting points to learn a bit more about how The Blue Wall works when the department regulates its own behavior:

    Wikipedia: Blue Code of Silence [wikipedia.org]
    Wikipedia: Frank Serpico [wikipedia.org]
    Wikipedia: Rampart Scandal [wikipedia.org]

  • by djupedal (584558) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:24AM (#44627079)
    Isn't this just assuming everyone is guilty until proven innocent?
    • This makes me think of a story I once heard of a dissident in the Sovjet Union.
      He was being pulled aside by the KGB and "questioned" (using 'special techniques') in a room with a window looking out the outside world.
      He was denying something and said "Why are you keeping me here? What am I suspected of?".
      The KGB agent pointed to the window and the people walking outside and said "They are the suspects, you are already guilty."
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Everyone is guilty of something, they just have to find out what. Hopefully it will be something they can find you for, because, you know, traffic offence target bonuses and all that.

  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:24AM (#44627081)
    Evidence that we live in a police-surveilence state. Evidence of a flagrant disregard for the people they purport to "protect". Evidence of thugs and bullies abusing their power.
    • by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @01:09AM (#44627261) Journal

      Far worse than just that. The first time I read the headline (half asleep), I read it as "Florida Town Loses License Plate Camera Images For Ten Years". The data mining and privacy loss potential is enormous, so there could be an enormous reward for anyone willing to... how shall I put this... inadvertently misplace a hard drive containing that data.

      Remember that the more valuable the data you store electronically, the more likely it is to be stolen and used by the bad guys. At some point the value is so great that more of the data is likely to be used by the bad guys than the good guys. This is true for pretty much any definition of good/bad guys. For example, if I were a crook who knew a crooked cop, this would be a goldmine of information. With this data, I could figure out with a reasonable degree of probability when any given family is unlikely to be home, and use that to my advantage when planning robberies to drastically reduce the amount of stake-out time needed while still minimizing my chances of getting caught. And by looking at the makes of cars, I could gain further insight into the likelihood of the house having valuables in it, allowing me to choose my next target more quickly. Heck, somebody really enterprising could turn it into a black-market data mining business for other robbers and make a small fortune in no time flat.

      IMO, even if we completely ignore any risks posed by police abusing the data, the data theft risk alone from keeping this much personally identifiable tracking data on nearly every single person in the state of Florida for such a long period of time far outweighs any possible benefit it could have. Heck, the risk of keeping it for more than about a week far outweighs any practical benefit, statistically speaking. The risk of keeping it for ten years far exceeds the entire benefit of having a police force.

  • ... and keep it forever and nothing you can do about it. I can post it on the internet and nothing you can do about it.

    • by pitchpipe (708843) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:45AM (#44627183)

      I could photograph your license plate and keep it forever and nothing you can do about it. I can post it on the internet and nothing you can do about it.

      Yes you can private citizen, though It would be very difficult for you to photograph everyone's license plate at various locations all around the city 24/7 and store them forever. And you certainly can't link that person's phone records, bank records, browsing habits, etc., etc. and store those forever. And here's the rub: even if you could do all of that you yourself couldn't do a fucking thing about it because you don't have the law on your side giving you the power to break down people's doors in the middle of the night with a paramilitary unit of trained, lethally armed thugs who *know* you're a criminal.

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @01:28AM (#44627317)

        Yes you can private citizen, though It would be very difficult for you to photograph everyone's license plate at various locations all around the city 24/7 and store them forever. And you certainly can't link that person's phone records, bank records, browsing habits, etc.

        I agree with the sentiment, but sadly it is out of date. License plates need to be completely rethought in lieu of the new capabilities available to both big brother (government) and little brother (citizenry).

        First it was only repo-men: License plate data not just for cops: Private companies are tracking your car [nbcnews.com]

        But the allure of monetizing those databases was too much, so the lobbying began: MVTRAC Spearheads Victory Over California SB 1330 [prnewswire.com]

        And now the same companies that do track your phone calls, your bank records and your browsing habits are also selling license-plate tracking data:
        Data Brokers Are Now Selling Your Car's Location For $10 Online [forbes.com]

        And just for shits and giggles I'm going to throw this one in, brought to you by those data brokers: Your employer may share your salary, and Equifax might sell that data [nbcnews.com]

      • by Ichijo (607641)

        It would be very difficult for you to photograph everyone's license plate at various locations all around the city 24/7 and store them forever.

        Storing the data is pretty easy with cloud storage.

        Crowdsourcing the license plate scanning would require a little creativity, but it could be done.

        • With modern license plates that many states are rolling out that are designed to be high contras in the IR band and easy to OCR, I would imagine that a RPi with camera and low cost GPS receiver could handle the processing and collection. Since all you would need to store would be the time stamp, location data, plate state, and plate number which would be a trivial amount of text data so a 32GB SD card would be able to hold a lot of data. I mean really why bother storing a large detailed photo when what you
      • Personally, I don't think it would be difficult at all.
        You just set yourself up at some big traffic axis in and out the city, and after a week I'm sure you'll have 90% of all cars and their movement.
        Besides, who needs to track cars when you can just track a cellphone signal.
      • by Greyfox (87712)
        But EVERYONE could photograph EVERYONE's license plate, and probably even link them up with various social networks. If I were looking to organize a mass protest for this, getting a large enough portion of the population to put road-facing cameras on their property and post the location of the mayor and city council at all times in real time would be a pretty good "It's not so much fun when it's happening to YOU" example.
    • now, do that for every car that passes by a point.

      and after that, install those capture devices everywhere.

      do you really think this is what the founding fathers had in mind when they created this so-called free country?

      the fact that computers and digital tech can take a small act and multiply it many times, THAT changes things. its different and you bloody well know it.

      would you like it if we arranged to surveil every aspect of YOUR life and put it up on public show? yeah, we thought not.

      and finally, you

    • by nbauman (624611)

      ... and keep it forever and nothing you can do about it. I can post it on the internet and nothing you can do about it.

      There's a difference in scale between you photographing every license plate that goes past your house, and a large organization photographing every license plate, on every road, in the entire state.

      That's what the Germans decided. You could drive down a street in Germany and whatever you can see through your car windows is public.

      You could probably take a video without legal challenges.

      But when Google drove down every street in Germany and captured everything visible in public with 360-degree cameras, the G

  • ...a picture is forever. Even if laws were enacted to delete them, backups of backups will preserve them for posterity.

  • 10 Years? (Score:5, Informative)

    by cold fjord (826450) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:38AM (#44627141)

    That's appears to be longer than most Criminal Statute of Limitations [criminalde...lawyer.com] in Florida, except for the most serious crimes.

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      With my cynic hat on, I think this might actually be good if you're a criminal. IIRC, the statute of limitations for some crimes doesn't begin ticking until someone could reasonably have discovered the crime. I could see someone arguing that the police should have been able to determine based on this evidence that the person committed a crime, and therefore the clock began ticking earlier....

  • by bieber (998013) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:47AM (#44627189)

    I grew up about a 15 minute drive away from Longboat key. Incidentally, I ran a camera at some of their city council meetings back when I did live video work, and they were about the most boring things I've ever sat through in my life. I literally watched them debate what kind of sand they should use to replenish their beaches for two hours on one occasion. On another I saw an argument go on for the better part of three hours, in which a new guest dock was being built at a gated community and the resident whose yard it was adjacent to was very much concerned that boats parked at the dock would obscure his view of the gulf. In a truly political compromise, they finally agreed that the dock would be built, but boaters should only use one side of it.

    The reason I remember these anecdotes is that they were by far the most exciting things I saw happen at any point in their city council meetings. Longboat key is a quiet community of mostly elderly, very wealthy retirees. Not only is it populated almost entirely by senior citizens, but the island is well enough isolated that there's essentially zero risk of almost anyone ever deliberately going there: the only reason I've ever been to it was for the aforementioned jobs and to drive through it to get to Sarasota. Basically, to anyone who's ever been near Longboat Key, the idea that they need any automated license plate scanning system, let alone one that retains records for a decade, is laughably absurd.

    • I ran a camera at some of their city council meetings back when I did live video work, and they were about the most boring things I've ever sat through in my life.

      I believe that as I had trouble just reading your summary of the meetings without losing focus.

  • Really (Score:1, Funny)

    by asamad (658115)

    We have laws in place to make sure people don't do wrong things.... Why do we need police what could go wrong !

  • by mfh (56)

    As someone who has visited Longboat Key, let me just say it's one of the nicest communities in Florida. Nestled into the coast just off Sarasota, LBK is a kind of retirement community of older folks. There are a lot of criminal types that prey on the island from Sarasota, because of the wealth and opulence, and relative seclusion the island provides. There are some gated communities but primarily there are coastal homes and hotels along the key, which make it a perfect place for a would-be criminal to strik

  • For someone whose job is based on the premise that people will not always obey the law, that police chief seems a bit too trusting that laws will prevent abuse.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      For someone whose job is based on the premise that people will not always obey the law, that police chief seems a bit too trusting that laws will prevent abuse.

      On the contrary my friend... he knows only too well the more law breaking, the better for his career.

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @02:09AM (#44627453) Homepage

    There are regulations, policies and laws in place that prohibit that kind of abuse.

    If regulations, policies and laws were actually enough to stop people, we wouldn't need to have either the camera's, the keeping of evidence or even the police.

  • by ScottCooperDotNet (929575) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @03:19AM (#44627695)

    The reason for all of this isn't for 'safety' or even revenue, but so those in power can have evidence to screw over who they don't like. Do you think the court is going to care if you are among the majority breaking some minor law? The argument that if the majority ignores a law does not seem to matter, which is pitiful, if one considers the only authority any government has is by the consent of the governed.

    Take the highway speed limit in your area, which is almost certainly well below the average speed. They won't get you, usually, unless you exceed the average significantly. But it gives the police the power to pull over almost any vehicle going above the artificially low speed limit. And those that do follow the law will be 'suspicious' by 'failing to follow the prevailing speed'.

    Using roadside cameras, they can target anyone. They can use these cameras to tell the average speed of the targeted vehicle, and they could write a ticket for that vehicle each day, remotely and possibly even automatically targeted. It's only a matter of time before automated toll devices (EZ-Pass) are used in this way, already in some areas using these devices gets a discount, so you pay extra either way.

    Whether this town is doing this for 'safety', revenue, or some more nefarious reason, I can't tell from the story. The only thing we can do is stay the hell away and not spend our money there. I'm going to put my tinfoil hat back on now.

  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kazoo the Clown (644526) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @03:56AM (#44627867)
    Next time a local politician is suspected of philandering, simply FOIA the records and show how he and his girlfriend met at some hotel. Such rules will get changed in a hurry.
  • Well I suppose they can always add another HD and extend the storage period.

  • It is interesting how he answered the question, very carefully inserting a strategic, "if discovered" in the sentence. Looks like he is already abusing the system, or aware of people abusing it or could imagine people abusing it.
  • Most people probably do not know that the Keys are islands with one road in and one road out. Many of the keys have no other road on their island at all. So it is US1 or swim for it. That makes it super easy to get every single vehicle on cams and makes it known exactly when the vehicle enters and leaves the key. This can help to catch criminals but it can also help keep false convictions from taking place. Florida also has other places with high quality surveillance and the bad guys know it. We

  • KGB didn't store images for so long.

  • Oh noes! The government is tracking what the license plate number is on my car! Forget the fact that it's a license number they issued to me in the first place, when I told them exactly what kind of car I drive....
    • Yes, but now they will know your driving habits and where you go each and every day. Still want to hand them this info?
      • by malakai (136531)

        Yes, but now they will know your driving habits and where you go each and every day. Still want to hand them this info?

        I'd hand them that info.

        They could pull my cell records and find out where I went with better accuracy. They could tail me. They could talk to my friends and find out where and what I did on a certain day. Honestly, even if they couldn't do any of that, I'd still hand over where I was and what I did on some day. They are trying to solve some crime, I'd help them to the best of my abilities

        • by Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @11:01AM (#44631085) Homepage

          To me, if it makes police work easier, cheaper, and more efficient, then I'm all for it. I'm more angry at the criminal elements who like to take advantage of a society that bends over backwards to try and be understanding and open.

          And you are the reason why we have the Patriot Act and why more people don't believe that what the NSA has been doing is a bad thing.

        • by operagost (62405)

          Pulling your cell records-- unless you're the NSA, of course-- requires a subpoena. Tailing requires reasonable suspicion, at least. Talking to your friends is free, of course, but they don't have to say anything.

          Summarily collecting data on all citizens is citizen surveillance.

          • Not to mention the fact that cell phone records can be pulled only if the cell phone company is still keeping them. Most retain data for 1-2 years, not 10 years.

  • This is beyond ridiculous.

    There is absolutely no crime on the island (as in zero). It's a very, very, very wealthy strip of island in Sarasota, FL and there's no reason for this.

    The police department there has more money than they know what to do with. I guess it shows.
    • ... There is absolutely no crime on the island (as in zero). It's a very, very, very wealthy strip of island in Sarasota, FL and there's no reason for this. ...

      And we have a winner!

      Keeping license plates of people who live there would reveal very little.

      The very, very, very wealthy are accustomed to living in a bubble where they can avoid contact with everyone else, except on their terms. A public highway, 789, traverses the length of the island, connecting to other islands on either end. Permanently recording every outsider who comes to "their" island is in keeping with the predilections of great wealth.

  • I am constantly surprised the technically sophisticated slashdot commenters seem to overwhelmingly respond from a perspective of paranoia. Besides the Florida license plate story, it comes up with all big data abuse scenarios. Why can't the technical community come up with some ideas on making the data available for legitimate societal good (missing kids, alibis for innocent people, apprehending real terrorists) and find controls that keep creepy police state abuse at bay. Police could be breaking down d
  • NH, 2006 [nhrsa.org], because that's we roll. Floridians should be ashamed of their Peeping Tom government.

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