Fresh on the heels of the administration’s decision to embed “government researchers” in the mainstream media to make sure they are doing their job properly (just as Maduro has decreed in Venezuela and punished CNN for?), we find out that the Department of Homeland Security planned to outsource the creation of a gigantic, comprehensive nationwide license plate database to a private corporation enabling license plate recognition “to catch illegal immigrants.” However, after extreme pushback by privacy advocates, WaPo reports the DHS has cancelled the plan amid “a serious management problem within this DHS component that currently does not have a director nominated by the president.”
Mike Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog describes the original plan…
The status quo is now overtly doubling down on surveillance in the wake of the Snowden revelations rather than reigning them in. Game is on folks. Things are getting very serious.
From the Washington Post:
The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to provide a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place.
The national license-plate recognition database, which would draw data from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their paths, would help catch fugitive illegal immigrants, according to a DHS solicitation. But the database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and could be shared with other law enforcement agencies, raising concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized.
It’s for the children! How can you object to saving the children!
“It is important to note that this database would be run by a commercial enterprise, and the data would be collected and stored by the commercial enterprise, not the government,” she said.
Yeah, because that makes me feel so much better…
But civil liberties groups are not assuaged. “Ultimately, you’re creating a national database of location information,” said Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “When all that data is compiled and aggregated, you can track somebody as they’re going through their life.”
The agency said the length of time the data is retained would be up to the winning vendor.Vigilant Solutions, for instance, one of the leading providers of tag-reader data, keeps its records indefinitely.
Nationwide, local police as well as commercial companies are gathering license-plate data using various means. One common method involves drivers for repossession companies methodically driving up and down streets with cameras mounted on their cars snapping photos of vehicles. Some police forces have cameras mounted on patrol cars. Other images may be retrieved from border crossings, interstate highway on-ramps and toll plazas.
Some questions about ICE’s plan remain open. The agency could not say how long the data would be stored, which other law enforcement agencies would have access to it and what constitutes an “investigative lead” to allow database querying.
The DHS effort arises as states are confronting policy choices about the use of license-plate readers. Laws vary across jurisdictions on how long data can be stored and who may have access. Some delete the data after 48 hours. Others keep it indefinitely. About 20 states have passed or proposed legislation that would restrict the use of such readers or the storage of the data. Utah has a law prohibiting commercial companies from using automated high-speed cameras to photograph license plates. Vigilant has filed a First Amendment lawsuit to overturn the ban.
Full article here.
And the follow-up:
The DHS has canceled the plan due to outrage. This is what we can achieve if we are informed and keep the pressure on. I expect them to be back at it in the future, so stay vigilant.