J. D. Heyes
November 11, 2012
The newest version of the popular video game, “Assassin’s Creed,” is set in 1775, “a time of unrest in the American colonies.” The theme is, of course, the Revolutionary War and it evokes thoughts of the colonists’ struggle for freedom and independence from Great Britain.
For me, the game also conjures up thoughts about our country’s founding document, the U.S. Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights, which are so badly under assault some 230 years after our founding fathers fought – and died – to enact them.
That is especially true of the Fourth Amendment’s right to privacy, and how, little by little, that right to be secure in our “persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” is simply vanishing.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the growing surveillance society in which we live, where police are now using tens of thousands of surveillance cameras to monitor Americans everywhere they go, especially when they drive.
Scan an entire mall in a matter of minutes
“License plate scanners are nothing new for law enforcement, but more and more agencies across the U.S. are relying on the technology as equipment becomes more affordable. As the cost of being able to catch a glimpse at every automobile in town drops day by day, though, the odds of being surveilled for simply riding around town is doing just the opposite,” RT.comreported.
A recent blog post at PrivacySOS.org lays bare the issue: It directs web surfers to a YouTube video produced by PIPS Technology, a firm that describes itself as a world leader in automated license plate recognition, which is otherwise known as “ALPR” technology.
The technology is installed in police cars around the country. In Little Rock, Ark., for instance, officers say the equipment is well worth the $18,000-per-unit cost.
But while cops are touting its effectiveness, the company itself is silent when it comes to discussing the blatant violations of privacy that occur with each use.
“[It] can scan the mall parking lot in a matter of minutes,” Sgt. Brian Dedrick, of the North Little Rock Police Department, tells Arkansas Matters of his ALPR scanner. “We couldn’t even do that three years go.”
Lt. Christopher Morgon of the Long Beach Police Dept. in southern California agrees that the ALPR technology installed in his agency’s cruisers allow officers to do something they could not just a few years ago.
Before adding the technology, he says, officers could only manually dial in about 150 license plates during a shift. But after equipping patrol cars with the ALPR software and adding scores of surveillance cameras, Morgon says that now, the department does much more than just that.
Time to reign in technology
“If you dedicated your day to driving around and putting your vehicle in a place where there’s lots of cars, you could read anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 plates in that same shift,” he said, adding that a single patrol car can collect data from upwards of three surveillance cameras simultaneously.
Think about it – 10,000 license plates a day can add megabytes of data to a department’s database in a very short period of time. But it is all only used to track down suspects?
In the advertisement, Morgon explains that his department’s police cruisers pick up intelligence on every car within sight and logs their location information without ever having to obtain probable cause, which is supposed to be a constitutional requirement – and that’s only if someone has been suspected of actually committing a crime.
“Its catching cars that are parked on the side of the road three lanes over. The old technology never would have done that,” he says in the advertisement.
Clearly, technology is being used to render our constitutional protections moot. It’s way past time for those protections to be reaffirmed by those we elect to serve us.
This article was posted: Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 8:17 am