Say CHEESE! Cameras are now able to take images of your license plate, feed them into a software program, and then cross-check your plate with available law enforcement and national security databases.
If you have ever read our Blog, you probably realized that we often like to discuss how technology is becoming more and more prevalent on the roadways. We have discussed texting and driving, electronic data recorders (a.k.a black boxes) in cars, driver-less cars, etc.. Now, I am learning about “license plate recognition” (LPR) software. My curiosity was sparked after reading about a software company called PlateSmart. PlateSmart is part of an ever growing mark to provide governmental entities and large private businesses with the software that allows for license plate recognition.
After scratching the surface and reading a few news articles and reports, I have come to the conclusion that we should all expect to see this technology in our home towns. It is already being used by police officers, sheriff deputies, highway patrolmen, federal agencies, and others to identify individuals. The process is simple. A still image is taken of the rear of your vehicle. A computer obtains the image and interprets the content. Your license plate number is then cross-checked with any accessible databases (i.e. law enforcement database). It can, presumably, identify an individual with a warrant, identify a stolen vehicle, identify known suspects in ongoing investigations, etc..
This technology seems to be advantageous to our law enforcement, especially when dealing with large gatherings or, if used in reverse, locate a specific vehicle. For example, say a child has been kidnapped and the investigating agency has the description of a vehicle that was in the area at the time of the crime. The technology would allow the investigating agency to search the plate in its database or active images. The plate might be seen going over a toll road/bridge or driving down the interstate. This example makes you feel confident that we, as a society, could locate criminals and return children to their families.
However, things are never that simple. Are our civil liberties being affected? Common sense tells me that your license plate is open for anyone to read or right down. Is there any difference when a police officer searches your plate through his database during a stop. The process of scanning your license plate does not seem to warrant such an argument until you start considering what data is being recorded after the scan. Is you location also being recorded? What if your driving habits are being recorded and the stored data can infer that your vehicle often parks at or near a particular church, drug rehabilitation center, doctor’s office, abortion clinic, staging area for political protests, bar/saloon, etc.?
It is only a personal belief, but I believe the benefit derived from such technology (more efficient law enforcement and public safety) greatly outweighs any such alleged infringement. This belief is based on the idea that any stored data would be destroyed after so many days/weeks/months. Just some food for thought.
If you have been injured on a Florida roadway and you have questions about your rights, call the law firm of Brannon & Brannon. An attorney is ready to take your call. #850-863-5297
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