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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: *bzzz* wrong
By JonnyDough on 3/31/2010 12:16:27 PM , Rating: 3
How is it invasive? If you don't like being seen in public, don't go in public. Anyone can follow you walking around town and write down what shops you go into and who you talk to. My suggestion to you:

Join an Amish society and live on a farm.

RE: *bzzz* wrong
By amanojaku on 3/31/2010 12:26:40 PM , Rating: 3
If someone were to follow me around in public making notes like you describe that is harassment and/or stalking, and I can sue if I am aware of it. I'm sure you'd be singing a different tune if you found out someone was following your children or wife around, "just taking notes". Even if it's the police.

RE: *bzzz* wrong
By GaryJohnson on 3/31/2010 12:46:55 PM , Rating: 2
Stalking is very difficult to prove as in most states you generally have to show intent to harass, which short of convincing a judge you can read minds, it pretty well impossible unless the other person is a raving lunatic.

Regardless of that, the system in this article doesn't "follow you around". It takes a snapshot. How often do you think you've been filmed by a security camera or unwittingly photographed by a person pointing their camera at something else? How many of those people have you successfully sued to date?

RE: *bzzz* wrong
By JonnyDough on 3/31/2010 12:54:48 PM , Rating: 1
Sure would. But on the other hand if my neighbors were winding up dead and I was sure my wife didn't do it I'd still cooperate with the cops. When people are dying around you you do what you can to stop it. That might mean locking your doors and arming yourself, but personally I'd rather have the FREEDOM to still go to the shops in town. I'll take the police presence in my life to living in fear.

What if my wife was the next victim? I wouldn't want my car stolen either. What if my child was inside and some guy dragged my wife out of the car and took off with my kid? At some point you have to give up some freedom and trust authority to do the right thing. No man is an island. Welcome to "Public Society 101".

RE: *bzzz* wrong
By sinful on 3/31/2010 9:30:37 PM , Rating: 2
What if my wife was the next victim? I wouldn't want my car stolen either. What if my child was inside and some guy dragged my wife out of the car and took off with my kid?

WHAT IF the guy that stole your car and kidnapped your kid was able to do so because he got access to this system, and knew when & where she was going to be?

WHAT IF the guy knows where you are, and sets you up because he knows when you don't have an alibi?

RE: *bzzz* wrong
By HotFoot on 3/31/2010 12:30:48 PM , Rating: 3
Anyone doing that to me is going to get charged with stalking. Even in public, I expect a certain social contract where this kind of attention is paid to someone only after some kind of suspicious behaviour is noted.

RE: *bzzz* wrong
By Spivonious on 3/31/2010 12:39:10 PM , Rating: 2
I'm from "Amish Country" (south central PA) and they definitely aren't living secluded lives on the farm. They go to the same stores everyone else does (supermarket, Walmart, Target, etc.).

RE: *bzzz* wrong
By JonnyDough on 3/31/2010 12:50:29 PM , Rating: 2
I have more first hand experience with the Amish. I grew up in Lancaster, and my folks are conservative. Without divulging more about my experiences- needless to say this apple fell from the tree. But you're right. They don't live secluded. The idea though is that they probably could. They come into town to do business and pick up parts mostly. Perhaps I should have said eskimos. :)

RE: *bzzz* wrong
By TheNuts on 3/31/2010 12:59:51 PM , Rating: 2
I'm from South Central PA as well :)

RE: *bzzz* wrong
By porkpie on 3/31/2010 12:47:09 PM , Rating: 2
"How is it invasive? "

The first time you get divorced, and your wife subpoenas the license records to find out every place you've been in the past year, and whether or not you've frequented any motels, strip clubs, liquor shops, or homes of ex-girlfriends -- I think you'll find out just how invasive it can be.

Is it unconstitutional though? I've certainly seen worse abuses accepted. I admit I'm a bit torn on this issue.

RE: *bzzz* wrong
By JonnyDough on 3/31/2010 1:00:37 PM , Rating: 2
I am divorced. Which is also a bit of a "torn issue" :) :(

You sorta have to be torn. While you want to live in society and have laws to be able to live in relative peace without others encroaching upon your rights, you also want freedom. The responsible have freedoms, the irresponsible have freedoms taken away. But you can't have any of that without some form of law and government. That's why government will always exist, and why they will always rise and fall, etc. Good law comes from good people taking a stand, and from behaving in a civil fashion. Our society that wants to "f this and f that" and acts like we'd be better without the police at all well, they don't see the overall picture. You have to give up some freedom in order to experience societal living. It all comes down to space. The fewer people there are in a limited area competing for limited resources, the more freedom we have.

Wanna do something about your world? Get educated and educate. Only with education does population decrease, and only with a decrease in population does freedom increase. We restrict each other - natural law limits what X number of people are able to do within a confined space.

RE: *bzzz* wrong
By tastyratz on 3/31/2010 1:04:17 PM , Rating: 3
Agreed. The system would be acceptable to me if plates were checked against a known database for warrants/stolen cars/etc. (and no data kept). I would have no issue with it in that form... but I just know that there is no government black and white. That slippery slope of gray area would slowly turn into the situation you just listed. They wouldn't leave a system like that well enough alone, and the potential for abuse is enormous without even considering the obviously penetrable security.
How many cheating senators do you think the first hacker will blackmail?

RE: *bzzz* wrong
By cruisin3style on 3/31/2010 3:48:34 PM , Rating: 1
How is it invasive?

It depends on what information is gathered and stored.

Examples of problem situations:

I'm parked at an abortion clinic.

I'm "home sick" from work, but actually going to the proctologist and don't want people to know.

Yes, someone can follow me around but who would do that when my location and time stamp are "available" from police databases?

Old elementary school bully running for public office, and you're a hacker? GREAT! Here's some intimate information on his whereabouts over the last ____ . Now data mine that sumbitch!

Another example:

I'm going to the proctologist, right? Whoever is following me would have to be there that specific day to catch me going there. OR you could get into this database and see that a squad car passed by the proctologist at 8:15am and my car was there, and then that another squad car rolled by at 9:05am and I was still there, hence probably parked at the proctologist. There are any number of things you might be doing, either embarrasing or immoral, that you wouldn't want other people to know about. And if you could, say, pay someone to hack a police database and find out your behaviors over the last week/month/year/program inception, that's a little bit different than someone happening to follow you to a goldmine of blackmail-dom or embarrassment or whatever they might do with the information gleaned from 1 specific and lucky day.

So while there are a lot of variables and unknowns at this point, and however trivial the information might be in the grand scheme of things, and however unlikely it might or might not be that this would be possible, that it is within the realm of possibility makes it invasive of my belief in humanity that someone could ask how my location being recorded like this could be invasive?

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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