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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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made me chuckle
By kattanna on 3/31/2010 12:05:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
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


im willing to bet though that he keeps his facebook page updated with where he is and what he is doing




RE: made me chuckle
By callmeroy on 3/31/2010 12:19:18 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah I really don't get people....largely thanks to open communication like internet forums, email and cell phones today most people are HIGHLY opinionated and don't hold anything back....so they'll rail on and on about privacy and what not and yet at the same time...they fill out every dang form they come across on the web with their email, phone numbers, addresses, full names....they'll make facebook pages that are never beyond an hour (or so it seems..lol) outdated with whatever they are doing...I just don't get it...we live in very strange and hypocritical times...

I have a facebook...that's updated on average...once every 4-6 WEEKS, and then its usually me just making a sarcastic or funny comment to what others posted.

Yet I'd say 90% of the 40+ "friends" on my page do MANY updates per day (including weekends!) on facebook.


RE: made me chuckle
By kattanna on 3/31/2010 12:25:10 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
so they'll rail on and on about privacy and what not and yet at the same time...they fill out every dang form they come across on the web with their email, phone numbers, addresses, full names.


too true!

quote:
we live in very strange and hypocritical times...


i couldnt agree more.


RE: made me chuckle
By HotFoot on 3/31/2010 12:40:46 PM , Rating: 2
I'm willing to be a lot of people posting in anonymous forums find it very easy to propose someone else is acting in a certain, hypocritical way - and then have a bunch of people gather round to chime in just how true that statement is and how hypocritical everyone else is.


RE: made me chuckle
By callmeroy on 3/31/2010 3:43:56 PM , Rating: 2
What?

Your point is the equivalent as me going "and water is wet".


RE: made me chuckle
By MadMan007 on 3/31/2010 3:12:39 PM , Rating: 2
Except such updates are entirely voluntary and up to the individual.


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