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    Associated Press: License plate data raises privacy concerns

    The Associated Press reports on an issue that we’ve been hearing more about lately — privacy concerns with databases that track license-plate information.

    ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Privately owned license-plate imaging systems are popping up around Rochester and upstate New York – in parking lots, shopping malls and, soon, on at least a few parts of the New York state Thruway.

    Most surprisingly, the digital cameras are mounted on cars and trucks driven by a small army of repo men.

    Shadowing a practice of U.S. law enforcement that some find objectionable, records collected by the repo companies are added to an ever-growing database of license-plate records that is made available to government and commercial buyers.

    At present that database has 2.3 billion permanent records, including hundreds of thousands gathered locally. On average, the whereabouts of every vehicle in the United States appears in that database nine times.

    Todd Hodnett, founder of the company that aggregates and sells that data, defends the activity as lawful and harmless. “We’re just photographing things that are publicly visible,” he said. […]

    Only five states have adopted laws regulating or banning private use of license-plate readers, also known as LPRs, with legislative bodies in as many more states having considered such measures.

     

     

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