In San Francisco, it led to a woman being mistakenly detained on her knees in front of everyone for half an hour. In Virginia, the cops are now using it to randomly take pictures of license plates.
As computer surveillance technology gets more and more sophisticated, we're going to have to start asking hard questions about how much privacy we're willing to sacrifice for safety.
Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) are being implemented in more and more police departments around the country. According to the LA Times:
Law enforcement officials say the data collection is invaluable for tracking down stolen cars and catching fugitives.
But such databases are also being built by private firms, which can sell access to anyone willing to pay, such as lenders, repo workers and private investigators. That is raising worries among privacy advocates and lawmakers, who say the fast-growing industry is not only ripe for conflicts of interest but downright invasive.
In California, legislators are already working to curb the use of the technology. Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) has introduced a bill that "would ban public agencies from sharing data they collect with private entities, prohibit license plate scanners from coming onto private property without consent and make it easier for privacy lawsuits to be filed against data collectors."