Location Privacy: The Purview of the Rich and Indigent

Krebs on Security:

In Texas, the EFF highlights how state and local law enforcement agencies have free access to ALPR equipment and license plate data maintained by a private company called Vigilant Solutions. In exchange, police cruisers are retrofitted with credit-card machines so that law enforcement officers can take payments for delinquent fines and other charges on the spot — with a 25 percent processing fee tacked on that goes straight to Vigilant. In essence, the driver is paying Vigilant to provide the local cops with the technology used to identify and detain the driver.

“The ‘warrant redemption’ program works like this,” the EFF wrote. “The agency is given no-cost license plate readers as well as free access to LEARN-NVLS, the ALPR data system Vigilant says contains more than 2.8-billion plate scans and is growing by more than 70-million scans a month. This also includes a wide variety of analytical and predictive software tools. Also, the agency is merely licensing the technology; Vigilant can take it back at any time.”

That’s right: Even if the contract between the state and Vigilant ends, the latter gets to keep all of the license plate data collected by the agency, and potentially sell or license the information to other governments or use it for other purposes.

Another case of the private surveillance sector overcoming state institutions, and to the detriment of citizens’ rights to privacy.


Police and bylaw enforcement may be tracking your licence plate for parking data

Police and bylaw enforcement may be tracking your licence plate for parking data:

Calgary resident Linda McKay-Panos doesn’t venture downtown often, but a city database knows where and when she parked her car during 10 visits over the past four years.

Each day, parking enforcement officers drive the city’s streets in cars equipped with cameras designed to scan licence plates and identify parking scofflaws. Even if no violation has been committed, the city still holds on to data showing the time and location the vehicle was spotted, as well as a photo of the vehicle.

As use of licence-plate scanning technology grows in Canada among bylaw enforcement agencies and police departments there is no consistency as to how long such data is retained or who it’s shared with.

The technology is becoming a “mass surveillance” tool and demands better oversight, said Christopher Parsons, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab specializing in technology and privacy issues.

“It doesn’t matter that there are positive intentions behind this. It’s a surveillance system,” he said.

Even if police have a reason to sift through the stored data, the fact that the data consists of plate information belonging to people who are innocent of wrongdoing is troublesome, Parsons said.

“I don’t think people go around their daily lives with the expectation that my movements are going to be monitored because at some point in the future I may be of interest to the police.”

The whole article is important, and worth the read, and discloses the massive variance in how vehicular surveillance is happening across Canada.