Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using sophisticated cameras, called “automated license plate readers” or ALPR, to scan and record the license plates of millions of cars across the country. These cameras, mounted on top of patrol cars and on city streets, can scan up to 1,800 license plate per minute, day or night, allowing one squad car to record more than 14,000 plates during the course of a single shift.
Photographing a single license plate one time on a public city street may not seem problematic, but when that data is put into a database, combined with other scans of that same plate on other city streets, and stored forever, it can become very revealing. Information about your location over time can show not only where you live and work, but your political and religious beliefs, your social and sexual habits, your visits to the doctor, and your associations with others. And, according to recent research reported in Nature, it’s possible to identify 95% of individuals with as few as four randomly selected geospatial datapoints (location + time), making location data the ultimate biometric identifier.
To better gauge the real threat to privacy posed by ALPR, EFF and the ACLU of Southern California asked LAPD and LASD for information on their systems, including their policies on retaining and sharing information and all the license plate data each department collected over the course of a single week in 2012. After both agencies refused to release most of the records we asked for, we sued. We hope to get access to this data, both to show just how much data the agencies are collecting and how revealing it can be.
Read more at Gizmodo