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    Posted April 9, 2013 by
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    ALPR - A Growing Threat to Privacy

    Automatic License Plate Readers also known as ALPR's are a new and emerging threat to our privacy. Right now police cars across the nation are being equipped with ALPR systems that allow police to scan hundreds of license plates per minute. To fully understand this threat let’s look at the technology's potential. Inevitably, these systems will be found nearly everywhere; freeway entrances, exits, overpasses, bridges, and tunnels. Every car on almost every road will have their plates photographed and tracked. Now while to some this may not seem serious and admittedly the technology certainly has its merits because it can be used for the common good by allowing criminals to be located and apprehended. Children that are kidnapped could more easily be found, provided the plate of the suspected kidnapper is known. But while the technology can be used for legitimate and well thought out purposes it can be used for far more nefarious purposes. Given the current state of fiscal affairs I can see that it’s only a matter of time before cities realize the revenue potential of this technology. In theory a city can collect information such as the most popular color or brand automobile and in turn sell this information so that marketers can offer more targeted marketing to an area or region. The same can be done to determine what areas or establishments are being frequented and this information could be sold to advertisers or even real estate developers and while this may appear on the surface as rather benign, it isn’t.

    Your license plate provides a wealth of information; name, address, age, and other demographics that can be collected and then sold that will contain what establishments you visit and how frequently you visit them. More alarming is the fact that this technology could potentially allow anyone who owns a car to be tracked real-time, anytime, anywhere in the country without permission and certainly without any control of how or what this information is used for.

    Ponder this. A criminal trying to evade the law may be more likely to switch or steal a plate to mask their location or activities. Imagine getting pulled over, the police have just gotten a hit on your license plate indicating you've committed a crime, or worse you've shot a police officer in the commission of a crime. Think of all the potential dangers this poses to an average law-abiding citizen.

    The technology not only poses serious physical threats but privacy risks that are just too numerous to feasibly discuss in this article alone. I worry about our society evolving into a police state under the guise of public safety. So what are we to do then? People need to start paying attention to what's happening around them and speak up when somethings not quite right. In the military we call this situational awareness. I worry about us loosing rights because we fail to exercise them or to speak out when they are being infringed upon. I see a lot of senseless change in law and society that I feel is largely counter productive. I'll provide you with a rather uncomplicated example, seat-belt laws. Now while as Paramedic I understand the value and certainly recognize that they save lives. I’m not okay with the government reaching into a personally owned vehicle and making it mandatory to wear a seat-belt or criminal if I do not. The government should not be in the business of telling me or you how to live our lives. The constitution guarantees life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The only person that stands to lose if I don't wear a seat-belt is me and I certainly pose no risk of harming anyone elses rights should I elect not to. Now personally, I wear a seat-belt but I do it because it’s a choice I've made. Most importantly I value personal privacy and I feel as though we are tracked enough without this additional intrusion into our lives, the difference here is that up until now and by in large, we've had control over it.
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