by Greg Krehbiel on 26 September 2013
You probably already know this, and I’ve heard stories of it before, but a police officer confirmed last night that police cars are equipped with license plate readers that scan every car that goes by. The computer looks up info on the car and the registered owner and feeds that into the officer’s computer, so he knows if your registration is up to date, if there’s a warrant out for you, etc. There are similar scanners on overpasses and such. You’re being watched way pretty consistently.
There are commercial products that will mask the ability of these scanners (and red light cameras and speed cameras) to read your plates, but they’re illegal in Maryland.
I wouldn’t use the stuff if it was legal, because I’m sure the cop would see that as probable cause to pull you over.
Pretty soon this kind of thing will move to facial recognition technology and officers will wear something like Google Goggles so they can just scan a crowd and see who needs to be watched.
“Excuse me, sir, why are you at this ‘occupy’ rally? You voted Republican in the last four elections, you are a member of the NRA and you run a conservative political blog.”
(No, that’s not me. I’m not a member of the NRA and I did not vote Republican in the last four elections, in case you want to know.)
I sympathize with the people who say “if you’re not doing anything wrong you shouldn’t care,” but I think they’re missing the point. Power always corrupts.
How long will it be before we read stories of policemen using this data to stalk their exes, or lawyers using this data to build circumstantial cases for a divorce proceeding?
My position is that any form of power has to have clear checks and oversight. If the police are going to be collecting this stuff, there should be an independent civil rights watchdog group to monitor how they use it.
-- 2013-09-26 » Greg Krehbiel