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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 porkpie on 3/31/2010 12:37:56 PM , Rating: 5
"Hey why stop there. Lets put a GPS in every persons car"

Do you really not see the difference between the government FORCING you to have a GPS in your own car, and divulge that information to them, opposed to a police office (or an electronic agent of a police officer) recording information freely obtainable in a public setting?

It's amazing to me the pudding-headed mindset that sees a problem with the government writing down tag numbers on public streets-- but is perfectly OK with forcing private citizens to do things like buy health insurance.


RE: *bzzz* wrong
By Flahrydog on 3/31/2010 1:14:37 PM , Rating: 3
What if the GPS will only be actively storing your location when your on public roads. Does that help?
Have you heard of Pay-by-Mile? This is exactly what the government is proposing. And my state, MA, is considering it. I will never allow a GPS to be installed in my car.

http://reason.com/archives/2006/07/20/pay-by-the-m...

I am not OK with storing the location of my car (by paper, computer, or GPS) and I am not OK with the government mandating we buy health insurance (which is waaaayy of topic btw)


RE: *bzzz* wrong
By Flahrydog on 3/31/2010 1:16:56 PM , Rating: 2
*off topic*


RE: *bzzz* wrong
By knutjb on 4/1/2010 2:34:28 PM , Rating: 3
No its not, its simply the justification for the next step down the path of unreasonable search and seizure.

I rarely agree with the ACLU but sometimes they do get it right. Someone in Raleigh PD needs to read the Constitution. You as a citizen can write down license plate numbers all you want the government cannot. Way too much private info is already in Gov hands and it needs to be reduced, yes even if it makes life more difficult for police. Maybe that's why we don't have a police state constitution.


RE: *bzzz* wrong
By ElrondElvish on 3/31/10, Rating: -1
RE: *bzzz* wrong
By bhieb on 3/31/10, Rating: 0
RE: *bzzz* wrong
By ironargonaut on 3/31/2010 2:29:39 PM , Rating: 5
Having entered license plates into the national computer system let me point out how they are stored regardless of the local police system.
EVERY license plate that is ran through the NCIS computers is stored. The time and the agent iniating the search are also stored. This data can then be accessed by ANYONE in the country with the proper clearance to get full reports. Example, young woman went missing on trip between states. Computer search was done to see if her licensce plate or id had been ran through the system. The system showed she had been stopped for speeding in Wyoming allowing indentification of officer who stopped her. Unfortunately, none of this helped. She was later found in a river tied down w/blocks.
The point is once the data is entered into the system it is in there for good. Not, only can someone in the state get the data, but others outside the state can also. All this data is stored in the federal computer system that tracks warrants. Some data has a limited life span of a year or so, others are forever. I know for a fact officers when bored drive through hotel parking lots at night and run licensce plates checking for warrants, but they had to do it manually. Now they can just drive through the parking lot or grocery store or, the parking lot for the antiwar rally etc..

It is only logical that the system if not stopped would soon be applied to traffic cameras etc. As a private non-public citizen it is illegal for a person to follow me when I leave my house and publish every where I go. Even if they don't publish, it is still called stalking. What you are implying is that it is ok for the gov't to do the same.


RE: *bzzz* wrong
By therealnickdanger on 3/31/10, Rating: -1
RE: *bzzz* wrong
By thrust2night on 4/1/2010 5:35:09 PM , Rating: 1
Thank you for the useless and idiotic post you just made. On the same note, let's just call in the national guard in every town and have a curfew starting 7pm. This would be a better way to stop those... what did you call them? a**holes, no?

Understand these words: "The end does not justify the means".


RE: *bzzz* wrong
By flurazepam on 3/31/2010 4:55:07 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Do you really not see the difference between the government FORCING you to have a GPS in your own car, and divulge that information to them, opposed to a police office (or an electronic agent of a police officer) recording information freely obtainable in a public setting?


Yes, one is oppression and the other is stalking.


RE: *bzzz* wrong
By Mojo the Monkey on 3/31/2010 4:59:47 PM , Rating: 2
the means and method are becoming less and less relevant, given the ability to comprehensively and passively track people.

the capacity for abuse is the EXACT reason why people should oppose this.


RE: *bzzz* wrong
By foolsgambit11 on 3/31/2010 9:01:24 PM , Rating: 3
Funny, but the government takes the opposite stance when it comes to their information. Take a large amount of freely available public information regarding the actions of our armed forces and put it together, and you can find out a lot about what the military is up to. That's why the military discourages the release of information, even when it's unclassified.

The same principle applies to an individual's information. The protection of privacy is a matter of pragmatics, not just principle. Even if some information is freely available, and the collection of each piece of the puzzle is, in principle, just fine, new means to collect and analyze this information en masse can threaten privacy. When courts decide issues like this, they usually look at the issue pragmatically, not just theoretically, for that very reason.


RE: *bzzz* wrong
By Reclaimer77 on 3/31/2010 9:36:04 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
It's amazing to me the pudding-headed mindset that sees a problem with the government writing down tag numbers on public streets-- but is perfectly OK with forcing private citizens to do things like buy health insurance.


I'm against both. Am I pudding headed ?

I live near Raleigh and I just find it hilarious that they claim they can't track or do anything about the gangs of illegal immigrants destroying communities with crime and drugs and whoring, but they can damn sure put together a system to track everyone's daily activities through license plates.


RE: *bzzz* wrong
By rdawise on 3/31/2010 11:41:56 PM , Rating: 2
First of all their is no "privacy" in public (that's why it's called public).

I'm curious Reclaimer, where abouts in NC (since I happen to live here as well) are you seeing "gangs of illegal immigrants destroying communities with crime and drugs and whoring" (that's a lot of "and"'s buddy).

I guess if you don't want to be tracked while driving on a "public" street you could always, not drive....


RE: *bzzz* wrong
By Reclaimer77 on 4/1/2010 1:46:47 AM , Rating: 5
I love you statist's who think if you are out in public, we can just throw the constitution out the window.

This isn't about "privacy". This is about the government, who taxes you and has been constantly looking to decrease your freedoms, also needing to know where you are at all times, where you go, and how you get there. Can you not see a big difference ?

quote:
I'm curious Reclaimer, where abouts in NC (since I happen to live here as well) are you seeing "gangs of illegal immigrants destroying communities with crime and drugs and whoring" (that's a lot of "and"'s buddy).


I live in Charlotte. And since about 7 years ago when they decided to try and offer drivers licenses to illegals, there has been an absolute flood of illegal Mexicans resulting in a crime wave. And don't pull the racist card with me, it's 100% related to illegals and you know it. South Boulevard, once a pretty respectable place, is now nicknamed South American Boulevard and it's an absolute slum rife with crime and drug related activities. I can't even go there anymore, it's just a dump now. Statistics don't lie.

quote:
I guess if you don't want to be tracked while driving on a "public" street you could always, not drive....


I guess you can go to hell ? I pay my taxes and keep my nose clean. Show me in the Constitution where the government needs to be able to "track" me on public streets without cause or suspicion. You can't ! Unless I have done, or am suspected of having done, some crime you are goddamn right I shouldn't be followed, tracked, or monitored.

You stupid ignorant shills for the government are why we're in the mess we are today. What is so wrong, in your eyes, about questioning government authority ? Especially when it infringes on your rights and privacy ? It is EVERYONE'S civic duty to look at things like this and say "hey, let's talk about this because it could be wrong. It doesn't actually fix anything, and asks me to abdicate more liberties."


RE: *bzzz* wrong
By Arc177 on 4/1/2010 2:30:14 PM , Rating: 2
Proverbial nail on the head. It seems to me that people are forgetting about cause here, citizens are being investigated without just cause under this system all to justify to the public a glorified lottery system. Under this system all citizens are assumed guilty. This violates due process to no end.
How about we just kick down everyone's doors and if they haven't done anything wrong we say sorry? Spare me the public non-sense. If driving my car makes me a suspect of a crime then our country is surely turning into a tyrannical state.


RE: *bzzz* wrong
By monkeyman1140 on 4/4/2010 8:34:42 AM , Rating: 3
Thats because big business wants illegal aliens. Cheap labor ya know. The public may not want them, but the public is powerless.


RE: *bzzz* wrong
By eldakka on 3/31/2010 11:40:02 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Do you really not see the difference between the government FORCING you to have a GPS in your own car, and divulge that information to them, opposed to a police office (or an electronic agent of a police officer) recording information freely obtainable in a public setting?


Oh, like you aren't FORCED to have a license plate on your car? And you aren't FORCED to divulge the address of the registered owner?

The government already forces you to do several things to your vehicle to identify it, the owner, the address of the owner and so on. Once they implement a system of monitoring and storing movements based on license plate recognition, is it really that much further to be FORCED to have a GPS that, at the very least, stores internally your journey history and is subject to sopena?


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