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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 12:47:09 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?

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith
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