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    Los Angeles Times: Servant or snoop in the parking garage?

    The Los Angeles Times reports on new technology to help people remember where they park; it’s raising privacy questions:

    Anyone who has ever tramped through a dim, Escher-esque parking garage in search of a “lost” automobile might welcome an abracadabra technology that could help locate it.

    But what if that magic involved an array of 24/7 surveillance cameras and was also available to police and auto repossessers? What if it could be tapped by jilted lovers, or that angry guy you accidentally cut off in traffic? Would the convenience be worth the loss of privacy?

    Those are some of the questions civil libertarians and others are asking as technology capable of spying on motorists and pedestrians is converted to widespread commercial use.

    anta Monica Place recently unveiled the nation’s first camera-based “Find Your Car” system. Shoppers who have lost track of their vehicle amid a maze of concrete ramps and angled stripes can simply punch their license plate number into a kiosk touch screen, which then displays a photo of the car and its location. […]

    Under U.S. law, the entity taking the video owns it and can largely use or share it however it likes as long as the video is taken in public. There is, however, a difference between being allowed to share and being required to share. Police do have the power to compel the owner of the video to share it, usually through a subpoena.

    “What should give people pause is that this technology is advancing upon us without anyone having chosen it,” said Steven Aftergood, a senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, which studies national security issues. “We have not decided as a society or as individuals that we want this convenience. It is being thrust upon us.”

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