An Unprecedented Threat to Privacy


The Atlantic:

**An Unprecedented Threat to Privacy **

Throughout the United States—outside private houses, apartment complexes, shopping centers, and businesses with large employee parking lots—a private corporation, Vigilant Solutions, is taking photos of cars and trucks with its vast network of unobtrusive cameras. It retains location data on each of those pictures, and sells it.

It’s happening right now in nearly every major American city.

The company has taken roughly 2.2 billion license-plate photos to date. Each month, it captures and permanently stores about 80 million additional geotagged images. They may well have photographed your license plate. As a result, your whereabouts at given moments in the past are permanently stored. Vigilant Solutions profits by selling access to this data (and tries to safeguard it against hackers). Your diminished privacy is their product. And the police are their customers.

The company counts 3,000 law-enforcement agencies among its clients. Thirty thousand police officers have access to its database. Do your local cops participate?
If you’re not sure, that’s typical.
To install a GPS tracking device on your car, your local police department must present a judge with a rationale that meets a Fourth Amendment test and obtain a warrant. But if it wants to query a database to see years of data on where your car was photographed at specific times, it doesn’t need a warrant––just a willingness to send some of your tax dollars to Vigilant Solutions, which insists that license plate readers are “unlike GPS devices, RFID, or other technologies that may be used to track.” Its web site states that “LPR is not ubiquitous, and only captures point in time information. And the point in time information is on a vehicle, not an individual.”

But thanks to Vigilant, its competitors, and license plate readers used by police departments themselves, the technology is becoming increasingly ubiquitous over time. And Supreme Court jurisprudence on GPS tracking suggests that repeatedly collecting data “at a moment in time” until you’ve built a police database of 2.2 billion such moments is akin to building a mosaic of information so complete and intrusive that it may violate the Constitutional rights of those subject to it.

The company dismisses the notion that advancing technology changes the privacy calculus in kind, not just degree. An executive told the *Washington Post *that its approach “basically replaces an old analog function—your eyeballs,” adding, “It’s the same thing as a guy holding his head out the window, looking down the block, and writing license-plate numbers down and comparing them against a list. The technology just makes things better and more productive.” By this logic, Big Brother’s network of cameras and listening devices in 1984 was merely replacing the old analog technologies of eyes and ears in a more efficient manner, and was really no different from sending around a team of alert humans.

I would reject that argument out of hand.

When one camera + computer can do the work of several people calling the cops (say a neighborhood watch) to report license plate numbers, then the police manually entering the numbers into a database and waiting for matched yo obviously have something new.


It is a reality that we are living through and it doesn’t look like it will be undone soon unless we suffer a “magnetic pulse” attack.

Florida has a freeway toll system in place that photographs your license plate as you proceed down the road - run it through a data base and send you a bill for your toll charges at the end of the month. There are no toll booths to pay cash. This procedure takes in license plates from all over, not just in Florida. Besides being tracked without your permission, a driver doesn’t know in advance of entering the toll freeway that they will be billed, nor the amount. The fare is not cheap!


To me this is not a threat to privacy at all. You are in public, traveling down a public road. You have chosen to make the fact that you are someplace public. You do not have an expectation of privacy on a public road.


You might be in public but its a little sketchy when you think about being “tracked” - ya know, like a stalker or predator follows you. :eek:


You’re not being tracked. They are keeping a record of the fact that you passed a certain camera at a certain time. They aren’t following you around.


I think it’s high time We The People started keeping serious tabs on everyone who works in law enforcement. They don’t know who the criminals are in the general population and we don’t know who the criminals are within there ranks.


How do you know they are not tracking all of us, and to what extent? They have been caught red handed spying on the population in the past, you think thats where it stopped? LOL Im sure they have databases we dont know about, God knows what they plan to do with this info at some point in the future.

Plus, Ive seen this tool used to incriminate people in crimes, they will bring up digital proof of someone being at a particular place at a specific time, and using digital tracking methods, they can show where the person was at different times, and if they wanted to, they could likely go much further, like if any purchases were made, places visited, etc and this is only the stuff we know about!!


There is a very big difference between capturing the private activities and communications of people that take place in a private setting and those that take place in a public setting.

I am sure that they do have all kinds of databases and whatnot, I am talking directly and only about the cameras that were mentioned in this article.



This. I think we’d find its far more than they’d like us to think. Too many cops shooting people. And too much surveillance full stop, no matter who is doing it. There is no place for mass surveillance in a democratic society.


Time is of the essence. If, God forbid, another credible terrorist threat is detected and a car is photographed at a certain place and time, local Federal authorities will have one piece of the puzzle. Even if they stop only one attack, then citizens will not say “Couldn’t you have done more to protect us?”

Compared to real cops following my car and obviously running my plate as a matter of course? This is not unprecedented. Mafia funeral? All the license plates of all the cars there are written down, usually by someone who is out of sight.



You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide.


Yuu may not have something to hide but if you believe the wrong thing, at some point, surveillance will not be so benign.


There are private companies networking security camera video feeds for the same kind of thing, but their customers are other private businesses. Bail bondsman, repossessors, debt collection agencies, private investigators, lawyers all trying to locate folks for various reasons. For example, a security camera in a mall parking lot can auto-detect a license plate on a car subject to repossession, the operator monitoring the system notifies the client repo company, a tow truck is dispatched and the vehicle seized. All in real-time.


In the case of someone trying to avoid an abuse ex. They can hire a PI who can use one of the companies to assist in finding them, easier if they have a plate number. But, these companies also set up fake social media accounts and are good at using those to track down people as well, not just via posting but using the electronic meta data often associate with them.


Having video data can be very helpful to police officers. Especially when covering up actions committed by one of there own



Anyone using a cell phone and internet is already permanently categorized based on who they call and the internet sites they frequent. Cell phones and vehicles already have tracking devices.

Microchip body implants will soon be the greatest concern.


Deception has a long history.
…just suggesting a pure heart. That is the goal…a pure heart.


Your cell phone carrier already knows where you are at all times, at least if you are carrying your cell phone and it is turned on. I suppose they could market this database if they wanted to.

I recently installed Windows 10, and during the process it asked for permission to track the location of all my devices. I declined.

My niece’s mom has an app on her phone by which she can bring up a map showing her daughter’s location at any time.


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