Supporters of license plate readers are fond of saying that unless you’re a criminal, you needn’t fear the invasive technology. But those who adhere to that argument should consider just a few examples from around the country:
- A police officer in Washington D.C. pleaded guilty to extortion after looking up the plates of cars near a gay bar and blackmailing the car’s owners.
- The DEA contemplated using license plate readers to monitor people who were at a gun show. Since the devices can’t distinguish between those who are selling illegal guns and those who aren’t, a person’s presence at the gun show would have landed them in a DEA database.
- A SWAT team in Kansas raided a man’s house where his wife, 7-year-old daughter, and 13-year-old son lived based in part on the mass monitoring of cars parked at a gardening store. The man was held at gunpoint for two hours while cops combed through his home. The police were looking for a marijuana growing operation. They did not find that or any other evidence of criminal activity in the man’s house.
With these stories firmly in mind, the New York Civil Liberties Union’s latest license plate reader discovery is all the more chilling. Continue reading