Right To Privacy and License Plate Photo Databases

Following up on yesterday’s post on the issue of privacy and face recognition technology, the Los Angeles Times has an interesting article on the burgeoning enterprise of photographing auto license plates.  There are thousands of cameras across the nation being used to take pictures of license plates with the sole purpose of being able to tell where you are, or have recently been. Law enforcement uses the resulting databases to locate stolen cars. Private companies such as Vigilant and Motorola will share the information in their databases with anyone willing to pay for the data. While some are worried about the right to privacy in particular, Vigilant is arguing it has a free speech right to take photographs in public.

There are growing concerns over possible abuses and people’s right to privacy expectations, especially when on private property.

As with face recognition, there is good and bad that can come from the use of these types of technology, what is needed is serious thought about what is and isn’t in the best interest of citizens and not just what business or government might find useful. And the time to be thinking about it is now, not as some are arguing, wait until we see if any problems actually arise.


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