Monday, September 18, 2006

LAPD Knows Where You Drive

Last Thursday, NPR's All Things Considered broadcast a feature on a new system being installed in LAPD cruisers. It is designed to scan license plates as the police drive around. It's being promoted (and reported) as a way to find stolen vehicles much more efficiently. Whereas in the past a police officer had to manually call in the plates of suspicious vehicles and wait for results, the new system does it all automatically, increasing the number of possible license plate inquiries from one or two per minute, to hundreds or thousands.

But well into the interview we find that all the license plates scanned are recorded, not just those of stolen vehicles. Along with the license plate, the time and location (via GPS) are also recorded. The detective being interviewed said this is so authorities can look and see where a vehicle was previously, should there ever be a problem in the future. While the NPR interviewer made a quick reference to Big Brother, he quickly moved on.

The detective also noted that the system could search based on other criteria, not just stolen vehicles, but also those involved in other activities, crimminal or otherwise. While not mentioned in the interview, it's obvious this system can also be installed at intersections, freeway overpasses, parking structures, and other locations.

So it seems the LAPD, and presumably other law enforcement agencies will soon be recording the location of every car they can scan with this system, and storing away the time and location of the vehicle for later use, regardless of whether the vehicle is, or ever has been, involved in a crime in any way.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Similar technology is already in use in England. It reads number plates as cars pass a specific point on a motorway. Then, farther down the motorway another reading is taken. They calculate the time it took to travel from one camera to the other and if it determines the vehicle has exceed the speed limit, a ticket is automatically issued.

Is there an "anonymizer" for automobiles?

7:08 AM  

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