The Center for Investigative Reporting looks into privacy questions concerning the use of license-plate readers:
[Today,] the use of license-plate readers has emerged as one of the biggest concerns among privacy advocates. Car-tracking technology is becoming ubiquitous in cities around the United States, and the types of data collected and analyzed with the help of license-plate readers is expanding into other realms of personalÂ information.
Documents obtained by theÂ Center for Investigative ReportingÂ show that a leading maker of license-plate readers wants to merge the vehicle identification technology with other sources of identifying information.Â VigilantÂ Solutions is pushing a system that eventually could help fuse public records, license plates and facial recognition databases for police in theÂ field.
The Livermore company released facial recognition software last year for use in stationary and mobile devices. The technology uses algorithms to determine whether a person’s face matches that of someone in a law enforcement database. Like license-plate readers, privacy advocates say, the technology can make incorrect identifications that ensnare innocentÂ people.
Vigilant also is the market leader in license-plate data collection. The company runs the Law Enforcement Archive and Reporting Network database, which stores more than 2.5 billion records and adds 70 million new license-plate scansÂ monthly. […]
Privacy advocates said combining historical plate-reader data with public records and facial recognition technology runs contrary to law enforcement’s argument that license plates are not considered personally identifyingÂ information. […]
By combining the location data from license-plate readers with public records such as court files and property records – as well as photographs of people from criminal or DMV databases – into one search tool that could be used with facial recognition software, license-plate readers could move into unchartedÂ territory.
A plate reader could tag a passing car and the names of people associated with the vehicle and keep a log of where that personÂ traveled.