The Outrageous Privacy Issues Associated with Automatic License Plate Readers, In Use By Law Enforcement

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  • Post last modified:July 27, 2020
  • Post category:Technology

Automatic License Plate Readers have been taking the World by storm.

Whether a stopped police car, mass-scanning vehicles as they cruise by, a parking lot looking to replace paying someone to chalk tires, or a high-security neighbourhood keeping track of who’s entering and exiting the neighbourhood, ALPR is officially mainstream. Data is big business, and tracking is rampant.

Data is big business, and tracking is rampant.

Array of Automatic License Plate Reader Cameras
An array of Automatic License Plate Reader cameras

It’s no surprise, then, that security professionals and privacy professionals alike are up in arms over the widespread use.

Security & Privacy Professionals are thinking about the implications of data hoarding

A large part of the potency of the new ALPR systems (aside from being faster, more accurate, and cheaper than human resources) is they allow law enforcement to share the data they collect with other agencies. In the past, the data’s been used to find out where cars have been in the past (or more specifically, where plates have been), to determine whether a vehicle was at a particular crime scene, to identify travel directions & patterns, and to discover vehicles which are associated with each other.

But security professionals aren’t going down without a fight!

One of the novel, and interesting ways that citizens are fighting back by making it difficult for ALPR’s to do their job effectively.

Adversarial Fashion is one company that’s fighting back through skirts, dresses and t-shirts. You read that correctly, their fashion garments don the markings of license plate fonts, letters, and numbers in order to trick ALPR’s into thinking they are license plates, or faces.

What’s the big deal? Why are people up in arms over ALPR’s?

What it boils down to is a breach of privacy. ALPR data is gathered indiscriminately, on millions of ordinary people doing ordinary things; the vast majority of license plate data collected belongs to a person who’s been accused of a crime.

In the past, ALPR’s have been used to target people of certain religious and sexual orientations. Other times, people have been dragged out of their car at gun point due to an ALPR error.

While there’s no question Automatic License Plate Reader technology is here to stay, it highlights several digital loopholes in legislation that need to be addressed to avoid breaching honest hard working citizen’s privacy en masse.

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