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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 11:47:28 AM , Rating: 2
Not only that, it's part of what we PAY cops to do already! This just happens to be an even more efficient use of taxpayer dollars. Sure, it's expensive to implement, but the recovery of just one stolen car per installation could offset that.

I find the parallels between this issue and the Bush administration wire tapping amusing. Because most people for the police doing this, would probably be against what Bush did.

If the argument is that you are out in public, using state roads, so you have no expectation of privacy is true then we can easily apply that to wire tapping. You are using taxpayer public funded phone lines when you talk to somebody. Why is it just assumed you have a right to privacy then but NOT when you are driving ?

See the problem here is we have allowed the government to dictate and divide us and nitpick what we consider rights, and infringement of rights, because we have allowed our society to think our rights are handed down from the Government. This is not the case.

See the Framers, our Founders, believed that we have guaranteed rights already granted to us by being human beings. They called these "inalienable rights". They believed these rights and freedoms came from a higher power, NOT the pieces of paper they were writing and signing. And that the point of the Constitution was to make it so the government could NOT infringe on those, in fact the government was charged with protecting them.

The United States of America was formed from this very ideal. That life, liberty, freedoms, and the pursuit of happiness were undeniable rights. Granted to us NOT from the country or the government, but simply because they were absolute rights. Period. No if's, and's, or but's. In fact this is the very reason the Constitution was written as a "negative rights" bill. It doesn't bother listing all the things the Government can't do, but only what it can and should do. Everything else is illegal, period. Or to be added later through a legal system of "amendments" to make it so.

Fast forward some 200 years later, and think about how that has changed. Really, just think about it please.

RE: *bzzz* wrong
By thrust2night on 4/1/2010 5:41:26 PM , Rating: 2
Thank you Sir. Very well said.

“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs
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