Additional Surveillance State Information-License Plate Readers

Posted: February 1, 2016 in Privacy Rights

If you haven’t heard the term technocracy, please look it up and learn about the state we are in.

Meet Vigilant Solutions – The Private Company Storing 2.2 Billion License Plate Photos & Selling the Data

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Vigilant Solutions is a company that will be familiar to longtime Liberty Blitzkrieg readers. It was first highlighted in the early 2014 post, Department of Homeland Security Moves to Install National License Plate Tracking System, in which we learned the following:

The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to provide a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place.

The national license-plate recognition database, which would draw data from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their paths, would help catch fugitive illegal immigrants, according to a DHS solicitation. But the database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and could be shared with other law enforcement agencies, raising concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized.

The agency said the length of time the data is retained would be up to the winning vendor. Vigilant Solutions, for instance, one of the leading providers of tag-reader data, keeps its records indefinitely.

Fast forward two years, and “could easily contain 1 billion records” sounds trite compared to the reality. According to a recent article inThe Atlantic, Vigilant Solutions has already has taken 2.2 billion license plate photos, and is adding more at a clip of 80 million per month.

From the Atlantic:

 

Throughout the United States—outside private houses, apartment complexes, shopping centers, and businesses with large employee parking lots—a private corporation, Vigilant Solutions, is taking photos of cars and trucks with its vast network of unobtrusive cameras. It retains location data on each of those pictures, and sells it.

It’s happening right now in nearly every major American city.

The company has taken roughly 2.2 billion license-plate photos to date. Each month, it captures and permanently stores about 80 million additional geotagged images. They may well have photographed your license plate. As a result, your whereabouts at given moments in the past are permanently stored. Vigilant Solutions profits by selling access to this data (and tries to safeguard it against hackers). Your diminished privacy is their product. And the police are their customers.

The company counts 3,000 law-enforcement agencies among its clients. Thirty thousand police officers have access to its database. Do your local cops participate?

If you’re not sure, that’s typical.

The company dismisses the notion that advancing technology changes the privacy calculus in kind, not just degree. An executive told The Washington Post that its approach “basically replaces an old analog function—your eyeballs,” adding, “It’s the same thing as a guy holding his head out the window, looking down the block, and writing license-plate numbers down and comparing them against a list. The technology just makes things better and more productive.” By this logic, Big Brother’s network of cameras and listening devices in 1984 was merely replacing the old analog technologies of eyes and ears in a more efficient manner, and was really no different from sending around a team of alert humans.

More abuses seem inevitable as additional communities adopt the technology (some with an attitude expressed with admirable frankness by an official in a small Florida city: “We want to make it impossible for you to enter Riviera Beach without being detected.”)

“During the past five years, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has distributed more than $50 million in federal grants to law-enforcement agencies—ranging from sprawling Los Angeles to little Crisp County, Georgia, population 23,000—for automated license-plate recognition systems,” the Wall Street Journal reports. As one critic, California state Senator Joe Simitian, asked: “Should a cop who thinks you’re cute have access to your daily movements for the past 10 years without your knowledge or consent? I think the answer to that question should be ‘no.’”

The technology forms part of a larger policing trend toward infringing on the privacy of ordinary citizens. ​“The rise of license-plate tracking is a case study in how storing and studying people’s everyday activities, even the seemingly mundane, has become the default rather than the exception,” The Wall Street Journal explains. “Cellphone-location data, online searches, credit-card purchases, social-network comments and more are gathered, mixed-and-matched, and stored. Data about a typical American is collected in more than 20 different ways during everyday activities, according to a Wall Street Journalanalysis. Fifteen years ago, more than half of these surveillance tools were unavailable or not in widespread use.”

Just the latest example of what can happen to a country when much of the citizenry is apathetic and ignorant.

For related articles, see:

Department of Homeland Security Moves to Install National License Plate Tracking System

License Plate Readers Stir Controversy in California as the NYPD Prepares to Use Drones

License Plate Readers to Track Every Car Entering New York City

Meet “Beware” – The New Police Tool That Data Mines Your Life

“This is No Longer Fiction” – The Era of Automatic Facial Recognition and Surveillance Is Here

In Liberty, Michael Krieger

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