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Raleigh police Officer John Maultsby says the new scanning system is safe and is working to catch crooks.  (Source: Keith Baker/WRAL)

The American Civil Liberties Union has request more information to determine if the scanning violations privacy protections, based on current legal interpretation of the Bill of Rights.  (Source: ACLU)
Raleigh, NC police system stores records of your license plates and location

Would it bother you if there was a record of where you were at all times, stored in a public database? That's the concern that citizens in Raleigh, North Carolina have expressed. 

Raleigh area police have just adopted a new Automated License Plate Reader system that they say will make citizens in the region more secure.  The system consists of four cameras mounted to police cruisers that automatically read license plates of nearby cars (the cost to outfit each cruiser can cost between $18,000 to $20,000).  The results are sent back to the police headquarters, where they are scanned for matches in the national criminal database.

The police say the system is working great.  It has already help recover several stolen vehicles and locate at least one missing person.  Describes Officer John Maultsby, "With this technology, it can read hundreds of plates in a couple of seconds if there are that many plates for it to see."

The system, however, is stirring up controversy.  Some take issue with the fact that your license plate information and location is stored both in the police cruiser and at the police headquarters, regardless of if you committed a crime.  The police have not made it clear how long this information is stored.

Such information could be dangerous if it was stolen.  It could reveal many embarrassing, but perfectly legal behaviors. Given that government databases are routinely compromised by hackers, many worry about the possibility of privacy risks to law-abiding citizens.

Raleigh is home to roughly 400,000 U.S. citizens.  It is the state capital of North Carolina, and the state's second largest city.  Numerous colleges, including North Carolina State University, Shaw University, Peace College, and St. Augustine's College, are located in Raleigh.  The students at these schools are taking note of the debate, and many have strong opinions on it.

States N.C. State student Ian Kilgore, "It’s just privacy. Even though I am not doing anything wrong, and I don’t have anything to hide, I still don’t want people to know where I am at any given time."

The U.S. Constitution contains no specific mention of a "right to privacy", but the precedent set by the highest court in the U.S., the Supreme Court, interprets the 9th Amendment to offer privacy protections.  Important cases that established this precedent include several contraception-related cases (the Griswold and Eisenstadt cases), an interracial marriage case (the Loving case), and the well-known abortion case, Roe v Wade. 

The 9th amendment states:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Other amendments in the Bill of Rights also been interpreted to provide privacy protections, such as the 3rd, the 4th's search and seizure limits, and the 5th's self-incrimination limit.

The American Civil Liberties Union, a U.S. rights watchdog group, has not challenged the new system, but has expressed its concern.  It has sent a letter to the Raleigh police asking for a copy of their policy concerning the use of the scanners.  The policy would likely reveal information such as how long location information is stored and what kind of protections are in place to prevent its accidental release.

Jennifer Rudinger with the ACLU of N.C. comments, "If an officer does not get a hit when scanning a plate, then there is no legitimate reason for law enforcement to keep it on file for any length of time."

Concerns over similar systems have been raised nationwide in Washington D.C. and elsewhere.

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RE: Embarassing habits...
By TheRequiem on 3/31/2010 12:01:19 PM , Rating: 2
It's people like you who scare me. How about... let's have less of a Big Brother Presense in our lives? I enjoy being able to do whatever the hell I like without being watched and fined up the ass everytime I do something wrong, its human nature. Get off Obama's mudslide and think rationally. People like you are destroying our FREEDOM and our RIGHTS!!

RE: Embarassing habits...
By JonnyDough on 3/31/2010 12:14:14 PM , Rating: 4
See, the thing is I agree with you (as per my above post: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.")

The problem is your attitude. You can't stand two sides of a friendly debate. This isn't about giving up freedom or safety. Its the age old issue of one vs the other. Its something ALL people living in a free nation must question. We need a balance, and the scale tips back and forth. That's how our legal system works. Take a law class.

Now, while I agree with freedom taking precedence - I am not doing anything illegal. A cop can already pull me over for a busted out tail light, and if he so wishes can search my car. All he has to do is say he thought he smelled burning pot on the wind. It sounds to me like you have a special case of paranoia. While I believe in privacy - the PUBLIC owns the roadways. They are not mine, they are EVERYONES. The cops are there to ensure PUBLIC safety. We're PAYING them do just that. If you don't like big brother, stop paying taxes, lobby, and run for office. Don't sit on a tech website and talk about "people like me". People like you aren't doing anything to bring about change. I have a government job, and I do not believe everything my superiors tell me. Its my JOB to make sure that the government doesn't overstep its bounds, its right in my contract. Both foreign and domestic...and that's in reference to GOVERNMENT, not terrorists. :)

RE: Embarassing habits...
By Ard on 3/31/2010 12:32:15 PM , Rating: 2
I wholeheartedly agree with your post. I would like to make one correction though, as it relates to your example. A cop has every right to pull you over for a busted tail-light but he has no right to search your car (in that instance) without either first obtaining a warrant, having probable cause to do so, or receiving your consent. Most people don't realize that they have every right to decline the search.

RE: Embarassing habits...
By Ard on 3/31/2010 12:33:45 PM , Rating: 2
Obligatory I wish we had an edit button comment.

I completely missed that you mentioned the cop smelling pot in your example. That's the probable cause the cop would need to search and you're completely on point.

RE: Embarassing habits...
By porkpie on 3/31/2010 12:40:00 PM , Rating: 2
" A cop can already pull me over for a busted out tail light, and if he so wishes can search my car. All he has to do is say he thought he smelled burning pot..."

While I agree with the spirit of your post, this analogy is seriously flawed. Police officers do not have the right to lie, and fabricate excuses to search your vehicle.

Admittedly some may do so on a regular basis -- but don't confuse an abuse with a legal right.

RE: Embarassing habits...
By HotFoot on 3/31/2010 12:46:21 PM , Rating: 2
I have to stop coming to these forums so much. I'm starting to agree with the majority of porkpie's comments. Dude.

RE: Embarassing habits...
By porkpie on 3/31/2010 7:13:20 PM , Rating: 2
Who's your father now, Luke?

RE: Embarassing habits...
By JonnyDough on 3/31/2010 1:04:17 PM , Rating: 2
You're right. I wasn't saying that they have a right persay, only that they can easily come up with a reason. Any reason to pull you over. Most won't. Heck I've seen cops let people go more times than I've seen them pull people over for no reason.

Most policemen are serious about retaining a good image in the public eye, and most try to go by the book. Its the public perception that is largely skewed, not the officers.

RE: Embarassing habits...
By B166ER on 3/31/2010 1:37:45 PM , Rating: 1
Not one to confuse legal with rights, but the whole idea of freedom is to exist in a Utopian society, and that will never exist. A cop has no right to lie, but he will, just as you and i lie on a daily basis. Lying is wrong, yes, but we justify it with the most reasonable claims. But that shouldn't lessen its wrongness.
I learned early on from a driver ed class (taught by a retired cop) that profiling exists, cops lying exists, and belying the truth to confirm suspicion exists. My teacher stated simply if you don't want to be part of a police affair, don't look like a criminal. And of course, that's bullshit. If my pants sag or I wear black makeup, or have dreadlocks hardly means I'm a criminal. But it sure as hell doesn't matter if called to court on some "I smelled marijuana" charge, whether the cop did or not. When accused, you have to have representation, and the vast majority have zero resources, let alone proper workings of the law to select adequate representation. And therein lies the rub.
Point is, who calls out the cop for lying? To simply say they have no right to lie means nothing. They do, and its quite the norm in many legal affairs.

RE: Embarassing habits...
By JonnyDough on 4/1/2010 7:59:17 AM , Rating: 1
You're right. Our forefathers died for nothing. How silly of them. Perhaps we should realize their folly and go ahead and just submit to your rule now. Or better yet, just off ourselves since our desire to live free lives while under a logical societal law is a crazy idea! I don't expect to live in a Utopian society. The human condition is both a struggle and drama. But that's no excuse not to try. That attitude is exactly what's wrong with our society today. Can't fix it so "f" it. Let's just add to the problem instead of taking any personal responsibility. Afterall, I can't control what my neighbor does so why should I be any better? Because you have CONTROL OF YOU.

Who cares what the cops do? Take personal responsibility and be the best person you can be. You never know, you might just inspire a public servant to actually serve.

/end rant

If you don't like profiling speak out where it matters, or become a policeman and make a real difference. Hating others does only one thing - it creates more hatred. Start acting like a real adult and lead by example.

RE: Embarassing habits...
By TheRequiem on 3/31/2010 12:49:38 PM , Rating: 2
The problem is your attitude. You can't stand two sides of a friendly debate. This isn't about giving up freedom or safety. Its the age old issue of one vs the other. Its something ALL people living in a free nation must question. We need a balance, and the scale tips back and forth. That's how our legal system works. Take a law class."

This right here shows how far out of the loop you are. America and its leaders that we didn't appoint are setting up the foundation for a new form of Global Governance with less freedom and more oppression. Its simply morality vs immorality at this point. This is a growing police state of oppressionism. This, internet cyber-security, new taxes, healthcare reform are part of the solution to bring in the new systems. We must stand defiant against anything that continues to dumb down and paralyze the public. Beign for these thing's will attribute to the destruction of our Civil liberty. THINK!

RE: Embarassing habits...
By JonnyDough on 4/1/2010 8:03:02 AM , Rating: 2
I think its funny that you would think that I don't realize our government is failing us and try to tell me I'm "out of the loop".

So...when was the last time you lobbied for change? When was the last time you ran for an elected office so you could create change? When was the last time you attended a town meeting so you knew what others felt needed to be changed?

RE: Embarassing habits...
RE: Embarassing habits...
By callmeroy on 3/31/2010 12:13:27 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. I'm all for police and law enforcement agencies trying to keep me, my family and my friends safe in our neighborhoods and around the country...however there has GOT to be limits.

There are so many layers to these "big brother" issues, they are never clear cut and simple.

In this case scan the license plates but the system should only store data (for further follow up) if it makes a "hit" with a crime database. In other words, if the data comes back that the car is stolen or the owner of the car has a criminal history then store it for further analysis or follow up, however if nothing is found (indications of no criminal history) the data is never saved.

It not a matter if we morally approve of people who go to strip clubs (to borrow a popular example), its simply not our business -- and it shouldn't be...unless it involves you directly (ie. your spouse is going a strip club)...but then that's a PERSONAL relationship issue that should be sorted out among the couple.

I don't know...where are we going to be as a nation / society in 20 years at the rate we are going?

RE: Embarassing habits...
By JonnyDough on 3/31/2010 1:11:08 PM , Rating: 2
LOL, you're not allowed to ask that question. Talk about drumming up fears. I'll live day to day and just try to get through it without any major disasters. I'll own a gun, follow the law, and try to watch my back and keep those I love safe. As for where we'll be...I can't persuade society to use their heads. They seem to be insistant upon self destruction and the destruction of this great nation. I was hoping Obama would be a breath of fresh air but it seems that with a two party system all you really get is trash. One man should never have so much power, and at the same time one man should never be so limited in making good change. Fixing the economy is a matter of the American worker. While companies today have too much power, I'm also not one to put red tape on everything. Politics are something you can't really discuss, and it doesn't seem to make much difference to do so - everyone's an expert and a cynic. The problem is that without debate and discussion, nothing will change at all. There simply is no magic fix, except for time. However I do think that power needs to be returned to local government. The Fed has gotten a bit too big. Federal government should really exist for one reason, to keep the States United and to settle interstate disputes. If we trimmed all the fat down and gave power back to the states we'd trim the federal budget and we'd be fine.

RE: Embarassing habits...
By Kurz on 3/31/2010 11:33:04 PM , Rating: 2
It comes down to the fact there is a Federal Reserve.
Since thats where the Government gets most of their power.

Dollar bills for you and me and all my buddies till its worth as much as Toilet paper.

RE: Embarassing habits...
By JonnyDough on 4/1/2010 8:05:34 AM , Rating: 1
So what you're saying is that the states need their own printed money? Or that they need to have more control over the federal reserve? I would agree that something should be done to return the power to the people. After, that is taxpayer debt, taxpayer money, taxpayer liability, and taxpayers are the ones hurting. I'm sick of hearing about "the government" and I'm ready to hear about "our government".

RE: Embarassing habits...
By porkpie on 4/1/2010 11:02:15 AM , Rating: 3
Do you really not understand the role of the Federal Reserve? (Hint-- the US Treasury is the agency that prints money, and the nation survived its first 150 years without the Fed)

"My sex life is pretty good" -- Steve Jobs' random musings during the 2010 D8 conference
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