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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 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)

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
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