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Transportation Privacy

Vast Surveillance Network Powered By Repo Men 352

v3rgEz writes "Even as some police departments curtail their use of license plate scanning technology over privacy concerns, private companies have been amassing a much larger, almost completely unregulated database that pulls in billions of scans a year, marking the exact time and location of millions of vehicles across America. The database, which is often offered to law enforcement for free, is collected by repo and towing companies eager to tap easy revenue, while the database companies then resell that data, often for as little as $25 for a plate's complete recorded history."
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Vast Surveillance Network Powered By Repo Men

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  • I've experienced it (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @03:08PM (#46411279)

    Yup, my SIL got picked off this way. Aparently there are cars that drive through neighborhood recording license plates, and when a license plate matches one that a repo man is looking for, the location is sent forward. She thought she was scot-free because she was living with her BF, but the car got towed anyway. Should have paid her bill...

  • by Jade_Butterfly ( 3564465 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @04:02PM (#46411921)

    I don't think we need regulations that prohibit this kind of data collection by private companies or individuals (the government is a different story). Collecting data nonintrusively shouldn't be illegal, because such laws would have all sorts of nasty side effects.

    Instead of restrictive regulations, we need legislation that empowers people to protect themselves from this kind of thing. For example, maybe the requirement to display a large identifying string of characters on vehicles should be rethought. We don't require people to wear identifying signs around their necks every time they venture out in the public. License plates just make this kind of data collection too easy.

    If our society is unwilling to get rid of license plates entirely, perhaps we could go to electronic ones. Static plates could be replaced by electronic displays that automatically go blank when the car is parked.

    Right now the playing field isn't level. Instead of leveling it by taking rights away, we should give people the ability to easily and legally protect themselves.

    Or perhaps some out-of-the-box thinking would yield practical countermeasures that are already legal. Of course, then the challenge might be keeping those countermeasures from being outlawed.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @04:39PM (#46412317) Homepage

    I know this is simply the stupidest, most trivial gripe anyone could make but I'm going to put it out just the same:

    Back into parking spots ALWAYS. Do it for for safety. Do it for your car. Do it for convenience. Do it for 'the children.' And now, do it for privacy.

    Many states do not require a license place in the front. I live in one of those states. For those who do, I'm sorry. Lobby for a change. Backing into your parking spots will reduce the likelihood that one of these scanners will record your car's location.

    Backing in for safety is good to be sure the spot is clear when you enter it. You have to drive by the spot before backing in, so you know you aren't about to park in a spot occupied by a person, a motorcycle or one of those ridiculous smart cars. What's more, when you depart your parking spot, you will have the clearest possible view as you enter traffic because you don't have to back into a completely invisible and unknown situation. This also allows you to leave much more quickly since you can see where you are going. That's a great plus since quite often people are in a bigger hurry to leave than they are to arrive.

    Backing in prevents people from hitting your car accidentally as you back out of parking spaces. Can you tell who is coming through that parking lane as you back out? I've seen too many cars hurt this way and it's tragic. And who has TIME to argue about it when you can just form a habit which prevents it all from happening in the first place?

    Backing in means you get to leave going forward. It's not just safer, it's faster. The only potential inconvenience is access to one's trunk or rear storage area. That's probably the only exception to the rule I suppose. If you're planning to load something large, going in forward might be the best way, but it also leave you and your friends and family standing out in the parking lanes waiting for the next jerk-hole to come along and clip you needlessly.

    And backing in means you have less risk of accidentally hurting a child. It's never a complete guarantee as kids just go everywhere, but can you say you did everything in your power if you aren't backing in and pulling out forward? It's when backing OUT kids are injured and killed more often. Those read-facing camera systems are really nice, especially for people who are unable to exercise full motion of their spine and neck. For for everyone else, there is no substitute for real eyes on the scene.

    And now for privacy? Holy crap. Every day we learn there is yet another jerk-hole out there making money by recording and selling information about you. I wish for these people to die in a fire. They simply have no concept of what harm they are bringing to society. They just care about the dollars they can collect and spend on crap they don't need.

    Seriously. Make a new habit if you don't do this already. BACK IN when parking. It's not hard. Just practice at it.

    And here's the best mirror-hack of all time for backing in. Most cars these days have a passenger-side mirror and it's used to see cars which would otherwise be in a blind spot. But you don't need to see the sky with it -- just what's on the road. How about angling that mirror down a bit further so you can see more of the road. When backing into a parking spot, you will be able to see the lines of the parking spot on the other side and if you can still see the body panels of your car on that side, you can even achieve perfect alignment every time by checking if you are parallel to the line and how much room you have on the other side. There are thousand-dollar electronic sensors which serve this purpose but all anyone has to do is angle the passenger-side mirror down a little to get the same thing!!

    Anyway. I hope someone actually reads this and gets something useful from it.

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly