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The DHS May Have (Publicly) Dumped Its License Plate Database Plans But It Still Has Access To Millions Of Records

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Tim Cushing
Tech Dirt
March 18, 2014

As we recently covered, the DHS and ICE asked for bids for a nationwide license plate database before killing off the plan a few days later, apparently realizing more massive government surveillance wasn’t exactly what Americans were looking for at this point in time.

But all is not what it seems. As Kade Crockford at PrivacySOS points out, contrary to what’s been reported by a majority of the coverage on this issue, the government doesn’t need to build a nationwide license plate database because it already has access to one.

[C]ontrary to widespread understanding, DHS’ solicitation for bids had nothing to do with asking a contractor to build a nationwide license plate tracking database. Such a database already exists. The solicitation was more than likely merely a procedural necessity towards the goal of obtaining large numbers of agency subscriptions to said database, so that ICE agents across the country could dip into it at will, as many have been doing for years already. There was never a plan to “build” a plate database. A database almost exactly like the one DHS describes is a current fact. It is operated by a private corporation called Vigilant Solutions, contains nearly two billion records of our movements, and grows by nearly 100 million records per month.

So, instead of being a “win” for privacy-minded Americans, it’s not even a tie. The government already has access to collected plate records. It was just looking to expand its existing access. Plate readers, some operated by federal government agencies like the CBP, are adding millions of records a day, and these records are loosely governed by a patchwork of state and local statutes, most of which allow for the retention of “non-hit” data for periods as long as five years.

As I pointed out in my post detailing the cancellation of the bid solicitation, nothing much changes for ICE. It, like many, many, many, OH MY GOD THERE’S SO MANY other law enforcement agencies (click on that pulldown menu and get ready for a whole lot of scrolling), already has warrantless access to a variety of license plate databases. And, as I noted when the news of the bid solicitation first hit, Vigilant seemed to be vying for the top spot, having recently sent out a press release touting its ALPRs’ effectiveness in fighting crime, as well as filing a lawsuit against the state of Utah for violating its First Amendment rights by preventing it from setting up shop.

Full article here

This article was posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 10:31 am

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