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July 21, 2011

Police State Thugs Wish to Record Your Every Move

They're scanning license plates and mapping drivers' whereabouts.

Civil libertarians are raising the alarm over the state’s plans to create a Big Brother database that could map drivers’ whereabouts with police cruiser-mounted scanners that capture thousands of license plates per hour — storing that information indefinitely where local cops, staties, feds and prosecutors could access it as they choose.

“What kind of a society are we creating here?” asked civil rights lawyer Harvey Silverglate, who along with the ACLU fears police abuse. “There comes a point where the surveillance is so pervasive and total that it’s a misnomer to call a society free any longer.”

The computerized scanners, known as Automatic License Plate Recognition devices, instantly check for police alerts, warrants, traffic violations and parking tickets, which cops say could be an invaluable tool in thwarting crime.

. . .

“People who aren’t wanted for a crime, all of their information is stored in a database that is shared with another government agency,” Crawford said. “The potential for abuse is very big. We don’t think people who haven’t committed a crime should be tracked by law enforcement.”

This is pathetic. We need a comprehensive privacy statute that covers both our digital lives and meatspace, along with reform of reasonable expectation of privacy fictions that have developed in caselaw.* At the rate technology is growing, we need to clarify limits on police power. They will use any tool they can get their hands on as long as it's legal. That's their job. And for the first time, the state of technology is such that the government can keep tabs on everybody all the time--if we let that happen. Without a comprehensive statute, there is little to keep them from "just doing their job," and reform is not going to happen in the courts.

This is America, not Oceania.


*For example, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding your checking account, since people working in bank end-clearing can see your checks. Never mind the fact the checks whiz by at the rate of about 100 per second. Or that your account is just one in tens of thousands. Or that your check is just one in hundreds of thousands. We'll just forget all about that. And, heck, maybe they have super-speed-readers working at these banks anyway. With really good memories. Bet you never thought of that, huh, smarty?

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posted by rdbrewer at 03:20 PM

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