July 30, 2007


Plate reader draws objections of ACLU (AP, 7/30/07)

Police in this Cincinnati suburb have turned to a mechanical watchdog that scans license plates on passing cars to try to snare fugitives, a practice that has drawn the attention of those who say it’s an infringement on a driver’s right to privacy.

The Mobile Plate Hunter 900 — two cameras mounted atop a cruiser — can read up to 900 license plates an hour on vehicles driving at highway speeds. [...]

Since the patrol began using the scanners in 2004, it has recovered 95 stolen cars — valued at $740,000 — and made 111 arrests, said patrol spokesman Lt. Shawn Davis. The plate hunter has made roads safer, he said.

The scanner’s gaze is too wide and it’s an infringement against the innocent drivers whose plates get captured, said Jeff Gamso, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

One does not look to the ACLU for common sense nor coherence, but, even for them, the argument that the state can require to display a plate for identification purposes but can not then observe said plate is lunatic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 30, 2007 9:05 AM

I wonder how the state can prove guilt (of a person) when it is the vehicle ID'd and not the person in the vehicle who supposedly broke the law.

Posted by: Perry at July 30, 2007 9:47 AM

And the technology will only advance. No doubt soon the cameras on top of every patrol car will know the license plate of every stolen car, every unregistered or uninsured car, and be able to identify license plates that have been switched to a car of a different make and model.

Posted by: Mike Earl at July 30, 2007 10:01 AM

Well, as this kind of tech becomes more sophisticated, I expect there will be a lag time in which it is abused by the authorities until the law / social custom / countermeasures are developed to deal with it & properly place it within the scheme of things.

People who fear that such measures or technology may lead to oppression aren't out of line for worrying about it, but they tend to look over the equally probable prospect that society will learn how to deal with it long before it can be used to genuinely oppressive purposes.

Color me optimistic, I guess.

Posted by: Twn at July 30, 2007 10:32 AM

Even for the ACLU, this is lunacy. Right to Privacy? These little slogans or sayings seem to pop up like an advertising jingle.

If you want privacy, don't apply to the state for a driver's license and tags for your vehicle because all kinds of private information is being gathered about you and in the future, lots more stuff about you will be gathered and Dick Cheney will build data banks so he'll be able to swoop down and enslave us all and ...

Posted by: erp at July 30, 2007 12:26 PM

As long as the data captured isn't stored to establish people's travel patterns, then the ACLU's paranoia is not justified.

Posted by: Pete at July 30, 2007 10:25 PM

What you have to understand is this is just a tool for law enforcement to recover stolen cars. Possibly even your stolen car. The system only checks to see if the plate is entered into a known stolen/alert file. The license plate reader can not tell what state the license plate is. Lets say that a ohio registered car ABC-123 has been stolen. If you have a Kentucky registered car ABC-123, the system will alert that you need to check into this plate. The police officer still has to figure out if it is actually a stolen vehicle or a look alike plate.

Posted by: matt at July 31, 2007 5:15 AM