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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 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 ?

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.

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.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser
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