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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 B166ER on 3/31/2010 1:37:45 PM , Rating: 1
Not one to confuse legal with rights, but the whole idea of freedom is to exist in a Utopian society, and that will never exist. A cop has no right to lie, but he will, just as you and i lie on a daily basis. Lying is wrong, yes, but we justify it with the most reasonable claims. But that shouldn't lessen its wrongness.
I learned early on from a driver ed class (taught by a retired cop) that profiling exists, cops lying exists, and belying the truth to confirm suspicion exists. My teacher stated simply if you don't want to be part of a police affair, don't look like a criminal. And of course, that's bullshit. If my pants sag or I wear black makeup, or have dreadlocks hardly means I'm a criminal. But it sure as hell doesn't matter if called to court on some "I smelled marijuana" charge, whether the cop did or not. When accused, you have to have representation, and the vast majority have zero resources, let alone proper workings of the law to select adequate representation. And therein lies the rub.
Point is, who calls out the cop for lying? To simply say they have no right to lie means nothing. They do, and its quite the norm in many legal affairs.


RE: Embarassing habits...
By JonnyDough on 4/1/2010 7:59:17 AM , Rating: 1
You're right. Our forefathers died for nothing. How silly of them. Perhaps we should realize their folly and go ahead and just submit to your rule now. Or better yet, just off ourselves since our desire to live free lives while under a logical societal law is a crazy idea! I don't expect to live in a Utopian society. The human condition is both a struggle and drama. But that's no excuse not to try. That attitude is exactly what's wrong with our society today. Can't fix it so "f" it. Let's just add to the problem instead of taking any personal responsibility. Afterall, I can't control what my neighbor does so why should I be any better? Because you have CONTROL OF YOU.

Who cares what the cops do? Take personal responsibility and be the best person you can be. You never know, you might just inspire a public servant to actually serve.

/end rant

If you don't like profiling speak out where it matters, or become a policeman and make a real difference. Hating others does only one thing - it creates more hatred. Start acting like a real adult and lead by example.


"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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