Travelers checks: Automatic License Plate Readers track your every move

Kaye Beach

August 22, 2011

Here is good article on ALPR technology.

Source;  Carol Rose, On Liberty Community Blog at Boston.com

Remember the furor this spring, when we learned that iPhones and other mobile devices were logging every move their users made? Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPRs) would do something similar to your car.

Late last year, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts advertised a $300,000 grant from the federal Department of Transportation for the purchase of ALPRs. Over 90 agencies in the state applied; 27 were given the grant money.

Many of these towns (see a full list here) have already implemented the technology. At least one, Brookline, is currently struggling with whether or not to accept the funds and implement an ALPR.

ALPRs are not ordinary cameras. Attached to police cruisers, or fixed on telephone poles or other stationary places, the cameras snap an image of nearly every license plate they encounter. The device produces a file for each image captured, which includes searchable text displaying the time, date and GPS location of the car when and where the plate was ‘read’. This information is fed into a database, where it can be shared with other agencies and databases, and “mined” or analyzed.

One of the major problems with ALPR technology is that it sucks up all license plates, not simply those associated with people suspected of wrongdoing. Therefore as the technology expands, it is possible that law enforcement will be able to track your movements with incredible precision as you go about your daily life in your car. Without proper privacy protections backed by the force of law, ALPRs become yet another tracking technology.

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