How license Plate Scanners Challenge Our Data Privacy will be described in this article. Concerns over the effectiveness and privacy of automatic license plate readers (APLRs) are mounting as more towns install them to track automobile traffic. Local newspapers in St. Louis, Louisville, and Akron have published stories about the explosive growth of Flock license plate data and how it can serve as a primary source of vehicle movements.
How license Plate Scanners Challenge Our Data Privacy
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These tales draw attention to a few of the privacy concerns associated with APLRs and bring to mind some of the same problems associated with the expansion of other large-scale private data collectors. Let’s first discuss the current state of these APLR systems, which have been in use for about ten years.
License plate readers used to be pricey and only available in locations with electricity but no real-time internet access. With the recent addition of businesses like Flock and Motorola Solutions—which just bought Vigilant Solutions—that has altered. These businesses have upended the APLR market with their more affordable cameras that use solar cells to recharge their batteries and communicate via cellular broadband. As a result, the cameras may be mounted almost wherever, and data can be uploaded to a central cloud repository fast. Also check How To Improve Workflow In Manufacturing
This makes for a powerful combination, which is why these new technologies are gaining traction. Over 1,400 towns and 500 police agencies nationwide use Flock’s network to collect over a billion car photos every month.
Flock is being used by a neighborhood in the St. Louis suburbs to keep an eye on the main exits from the subdivision. One of the company’s main marketing features is its ability to deter crime. This assertion, nevertheless, might not be totally accurate. According to an audit conducted by two nonprofit consultants, APLR cameras had no effect in preventing car theft. Less than 0.3% of support plate reader “hits” from the neighboring city of Piedmont in 2013 produced any criminal leads, according to an analysis of APLR data.
It’s critical to comprehend how Flock and the other APLR companies gather and distribute their data, given the volume of plates being scanned. An ACLU article from recently claims that communities who purchased Flock cameras are essentially purchasing and installing surveillance equipment for the government as well as for themselves, linking their cameras to a national network that can be searched by law enforcement. Other difficulties mentioned in the study include:
- The use of this data by Flock or any other private entity is unchecked by the law. The ACLU lists a number of instances of possible misuse, including when Ring employees shared pictures taken by their front door cameras.
- The repercussions of mistakes: Since optical character recognition systems are not flawless, mistakes may lead to police pulling up innocent individuals. According to the Louisville story mentioned above, numerous police departments have been sued for a variety of errors they made when utilizing these systems.
- How information is ultimately distributed: The American Civil Liberties Union discovered a number of years ago that the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement was receiving license plate data from over 80 law enforcement departments spread across 12 states. While Flock’s assertion that it automatically removes data older than 30 days may be accurate as of right now, there’s no assurance that this trend will hold true going forward. “People can engage in a lot of completely legal yet private behavior within 30 days — signals that would reveal things about their political, financial, sexual, spiritual, or medical lives that nobody in the police or in a group like Flock has a right to track,” the ACLU claims despite this. To best protect privacy, they advise much shorter retention durations, like a few minutes.
Organizations are interested in more than gust our license plates
There are even more serious repercussions to this problem of sharing our personal information. Let’s look at businesses that are gathering our DNA to see how they can increase data collection. Specifically, I’m referring to the recent surge in popularity of genetic testing services and private DNA databases. How much of this field do we want to give to public oversight, and how much should stay in the hands of private companies? is a question posed by Garry Kasparov in a prior post on the subject.
This is precisely the conundrum that Flock and the other APLR suppliers are facing. If you are so inclined when you register for the service, you can, at least, choose not to share personal information with the DNA data. This was covered in our post about MyHeritageDNA and data privacy. The idea that one’s careless internet decisions may have unanticipated effects on future generations is discussed in that post.
After viewing the Netflix documentary Our Father, which showed a fertility doctor secretly inseminating his patients, I was reminded of this issue. Eventually, 100 of his children were able to find one another using databases including results from genetic testing.
Additionally, similar to license plates, entities such as law enforcement, pharmaceutical labs, and app developers value our genetic data.
We are unable to just “opt out” of the ALPR systems, in contrast to our DNA. While some communities will delete your data at your request, most of us are unlikely to notice when our movements have been tracked or even take the time to do so. Transparency is yet another issue with the license plate data. Even if the police in your area are totally open about how they store and destroy personal information, it could not matter if the police in another city have opaque regulations.
Although several US states have started to acknowledge these problems with privacy legislation, there is still much legal work to be done in this area. The quick adoption of ALPRs by law enforcement and community users is concerning for future privacy concerns, as the ACLU analysis foresees.