Red Light / Surveillance Cameras
Posted by Laissez Faire Today
Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using sophisticated cameras, called “automated license plate readers,” or ALPRs, to scan and record the license plates of millions of cars across the country. These cameras, mounted on top of patrol cars and on city streets, can scan up to 1,800 license plate per minute, day or night, allowing one squad car to record more than 14,000 plates during the course of a single shift.
Photographing a single license plate one time on a public city street may not seem problematic, but when the data are put into a database, combined with other scans of that same plate on other city streets, and stored forever, it can become very revealing. Information about your location over time can show not only where you live and work, but your political and religious beliefs, your social and sexual habits, your visits to the doctor, and your associations with others. And according to recent research reported in Nature, it’s possible to identify 95% of individuals with as few as four randomly selected geospatial data points (location plus time), making location data the ultimate biometric identifiers.
To better gauge the real threat to privacy posed by ALPRs, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of Southern California asked the LAPD and LA Sheriff’s Department for information on their systems, including their policies on retaining and sharing information and all the license plate data each department collected over the course of a single week in 2012.
After both agencies refused to release most of the records we asked for, we sued. We hope to get access to these data, both to show just how many data the agencies are collecting and to show how revealing they can be.
Automated license plate readers are often touted as an easy way to find stolen cars — the system checks a scanned plate against a database of stolen or wanted cars and can instantly identify a hit, allowing officers to set up a sting to recover the car and catch the thief. But even when there’s no match in the database and no reason to think a car is stolen or involved in a crime, police keep the data.
According to the LA Weekly, the LAPD and LASD together already have collected more than 160 million “data points” (license plates plus time, date, and exact location) in the greater LA area — that’s more than 20 hits for each of the more than 7 million vehicles registered in LA County. That’s a ton of data, but it’s not all — law enforcement officers also have access to private databases containing hundreds of millions of plates and their coordinates collected by “repo” men.
Law enforcement agencies claim that ALPR systems are no different from an officer recording license plate, time and location information by hand. They also argue the data don’t warrant any privacy protections because we drive our cars around in public. However, as five justices of the Supreme Court recognized last year in U.S. v. Jones, a case involving GPS tracking, the ease of data collection and the low cost of data storage make technological surveillance solutions such as GPS or ALPR very different from techniques used in the past.
Police are open about their desire to record the movements of every car in case it might one day prove valuable. In 2008, LAPD police Chief Charlie Beck (then the agency’s chief of detectives) told GovTech magazine that ALPRs have “unlimited potential” as an investigative tool. “It’s always going to be great for the black-and-white to be driving down the street and find stolen cars rolling around… But the real value comes from the long-term investigative uses of being able to track vehicles — where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing — and tie that to crimes that have occurred or that will occur.” But amassing data on the movements of law-abiding residents poses a real threat to privacy, while the benefit to public safety is speculative, at best.
In light of privacy concerns, states including Maine, New Jersey, and Virginia have limited the use of ALPRs, and New Hampshire has banned them outright. Even the International Association of Chiefs of Police has issued a report recognizing that “recording driving habits” could raise First Amendment concerns because cameras could record “vehicles parked at addiction-counseling meetings, doctors’ offices, health clinics, or even staging areas for political protests.”
But even if ALPRs are permitted, there are still common-sense limits that can allow the public safety benefits of ALPRs while preventing the wholesale tracking of every resident’s movements. Police can, and should, treat location information from ALPRs like other sensitive information — they should retain it no longer than necessary to determine if it might be relevant to a crime, and should get a warrant to keep it any longer. They should limit who can access it and who they can share it with. And they should put oversight in place to ensure these limits are followed.
Unfortunately, efforts to impose reasonable limits on ALPR tracking in California have failed so far. Last year, legislation that would have limited private and law enforcement retention of ALPR data to 60 days — a limit currently in effect for the California Highway Patrol — and restricted sharing between law enforcement and private companies failed after vigorous opposition from law enforcement. In California, law enforcement agencies remain free to set their own policies on the use and retention of ALPR data, or to have no policy at all.
Some have asked why we would seek public disclosure of the actual license plate data collected by the police — location-based data that we think is private. But we asked specifically for a narrow slice of data — just a week’s worth — to demonstrate how invasive the technology is. Having the data will allow us to see how frequently some plates have been scanned; where and when, specifically, the cops are scanning plates; and just how many plates can be collected in a large metropolitan area over the course of a single week. Actual data will reveal whether ALPRs are deployed primarily in particular areas of Los Angeles and whether some communities might, therefore, be much more heavily tracked than others. If these data are too private to give a week’s worth to the public to help inform us how the technology is being used, then isn’t it too private to let the police amass years’ worth of data without a warrant?
After the Boston Marathon bombings, many have argued that the government should take advantage of surveillance technology to collect more data, rather than less. But we should not so readily give up the very freedoms that terrorists seek to destroy. We should recognize just how revealing ALPR data are and not be afraid to push our police and legislators for sensible limits to protect our basic right to privacy.
Jennifer Lynch and Peter Bibring
A version of this article was originally posted here.
1 million terabytes a day saved forever.
The ARGUS array is made up of several cameras and other types of imaging systems. The output of the imaging system is used to create extremely large, 1.8GP high-resolution mosaic images and video.
The U.S. Army, along with
Boeing, has developed and is preparing to deploy a new unmanned aircraft
called the “Hummingbird.” It’s is a VTOL-UAS (vertical take-off and
landing unmanned aerial system). Three of them are being deployed to
Afghanistan for a full year to survey and spy on Afghanistan from an
altitude of 20,000 feet with the ability to scan 25 square miles of
And we are allowed to know about ARGUS, what else is out there?
San Francisco, California is the second-most densely populated urban area in the US, but those nearly one million residents of the City by the Bay are about to lose what little amount of privacy they have.
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has started work on a program that will update a number of the city’s 18,000 streetlights during the next few years. Those new installations might do a whole lot more than just illuminate sidewalks and keep streets lit for cars, though. Through part of a pilot program, city officials can send data wirelessly between more than a dozen of those streetlights.
What kind of data can a lamppost collect, though? In San Francisco, the answer is a lot. According to a report in the SF Bay Guardian, Paradox Engineering of Switzerland has already started testing streetlamps in the city that have the ability to wirelessly transmit data from traffic signals and surveillance cameras from one device to another. Soon, though, there will be more than just 14 cameras with that kind of capability. Additionally, the city is currently searching five vendors to test even more advanced lampposts across the city.
During last year’s Living Labs Global Award in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the LLGA gave Paradox the go-ahead to start testing lights in San Francisco. In a just-issued Request for Proposals, the city calls on others to pitch similar products. In the request, the City writes that as they begin replacing the 18,000 streetlights, the SFPUC “also plans to install an integrated wireless communication monitoring and control system” in order to manage the devices.”
“Ideally, the wireless system will accommodate other wireless devices, unrelated to street lighting, in a common wireless system mesh network,” the request reads.
When the City goes more into detail, the kind of devices that will need to connect to the lamps are brought to light. “Future needs for the secure wireless transmission of data throughout the City,” reads the report, may include gunshot monitoring, electric meter reading, street surveillance, public information broadcasts and other types of monitoring.
“San Francisco thought they were upgrading their 18,000 lamps with LEDs and a wireless control system, when they realized that they were in fact laying the groundwork for the future intelligent public space,” LLGA cofounder Sascha Haselmeyer tells Open Source Cities.
San Francisco isn’t the first city to bring this new form of surveillance to light — literally — but it might be the biggest. In 2011, Farmington Hills, Michigan became the first city in the US to rely on something called the Intellistreets project to watch over pedestrians. For $3,000 a piece, those high-tech luminaries don’t just provide light, but also record audio and video, all data that can be sent from device to device.
“This is not a system with spook technology,” Intellistreets founder Ron Harwood told WXYZ News when his small Michigan town first started trying out the devices. With 18,000 traffic lights in a city of 800,000 possibly embracing that same technology, though, it says a lot about the growing trend of secretive surveillance in the US.
“We’ve become somewhat accustomed to being visually monitored by the surveillance cameras that dot our urban landscapes, but audio monitoring and widespread, covert monitoring are not so common,” the PrivacySOS.org blog reports.
San Francisco first began installing public surveillance cameras in 2005, and four years later a report from the University of California Berkeley found that the devices failed to detersviolent crimes, including homicide, as well as rapes and drug dealing.
“Precious public safety dollars need to be spent on solutions that actually work to reduce violent crime, like community policing, intervention programs and improved lighting, not on more ineffective and intrusive cameras,” Nicole Ozer of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Northern California office said in 2009. Four years later, however, it seems as if the city is deadest on installing even more devices.
“In a few years, there may be no place to hide from San Francisco police surveillance – unless you drive to get around,” PrivacySOS adds. “The increasingly aggressive San Francisco surveillance regime appears to disproportionately affect low income people. In the privacy of your own car, you are probably free from city monitoring. But if you walk to work or take the bus, you better mind what you say.”
Talking Surveillance Cameras Coming to U.S. Streets
The National Motorists Association has a warning for the millions of drivers hitting the road for the busy holiday travel season: Beware of the yellow lights.
The timing of yellow lights on traffic signals at many intersections is purposely set to a minimum so more drivers can be ticketed for running red lights, says the 30-year-old activist group based in Waunakee, Wis.
This past summer in New Jersey, the transportation department ordered 21 cities and towns to suspend the use of red-light cameras at 63 intersections because the timing of yellow lights at those locations was below the minimum established by state law.
Other cities—including Dallas; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Union City, Calif.—have been caught shortening yellow lights in the past decade as red-light cameras have become sources of steady revenue. The cameras snap photos of license plates on any vehicles in an intersection while the light is red, and citations, often carrying fines of $100 or more, are mailed to the registration’s address.
“Cities and for-profit camera companies maximize revenue by setting yellow-light times that are too short,” said National Motorists Association President Gary Biller. “It is a violation of the public trust, and it jeopardizes motorist, cyclist, and pedestrian safety.”
Ironically, slightly longer yellow lights can significantly increase safety by allowing more time for intersections to clear, the group says. Biller cited one study that found just one additional second of yellow time can reduce the number of collisions in an intersection by 40 percent.
Longer yellow lights also greatly reduce the number of red-light violations. A recent Texas study concluded, “Lengthening the yellow light interval by as little as 0.5 to 1.5 seconds decreases the incidence of red-light running violations by 50 percent or more,” Biller said in a Nov. 16 letter to the head of the Federal Highway Administration, Victor Mendez.
The Philippines has approved measures to prosecute users that post “defamatory” comments on social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook. They will be liable for a fine of 1 million pesos (US$24,000) or face up to 12 years in prison.
Websites that publish the material may also be shut down.
The cyber-law has been branded as ‘draconian’ and a serious violation of freedom of speech by rights groups.
“The cyber crime law needs to be repealed or replaced,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of the Human Rights Watch. “It violates Filipinos’ rights to free expression and it is wholly incompatible with the Philippine government’s obligations under international law.”
He stressed that while the bill was in action it will have a “chilling effect over the entire Philippines online community.”
The new legislation extends Philippines libel law, which has been previously contested by Human Rights Watch, into cyberspace.
Aside from prosecuting users who post material deemed offensive, the bill grants authorities the power to collate and retain information from people’s Facebook and Twitter profiles, as well as eavesdropping on conversations over Skype.
“Anybody using popular social networks or who publishes online is now at risk of a long prison term should a reader – including government officials – bring a libel charge,” Adams said. “Allegedly libelous speech, online or off-line, should be handled as a private civil matter, not as a crime.”
By Judge Andrew Napolitano | Judge Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. He is author of It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong and Lies the Government Told You and others.
Judge Napolitano talks with Jerry about the growing government intrusion in our lives and the violation of our constitutional rights.
Published on Oct 2, 2012 by GuyFawkes2009
On top of already ubiquitous surveillance cameras and facial recognition technology, there’s no refuge for Americans as the location of their cars are also relentlessly tracked, report Julia Angwin and Jennifer Valentino-Devries for the Wall Street Journal:
For more than two years, the police in San Leandro, Calif., photographed Mike Katz-Lacabe’s Toyota Tercel almost weekly. They have shots of it cruising along Estudillo Avenue near the library, parked at his friend’s house and near a coffee shop he likes. In one case, they snapped a photo of him and his two daughters getting out of a car in his driveway.
Mr. Katz-Lacabe isn’t charged with, or suspected of, any crime. Local police are tracking his vehicle automatically, using cameras mounted on a patrol car that record every nearby vehicle—license plate, time and location.
“Why are they keeping all this data?” says Mr. Katz-Lacabe, who obtained the photos of his car through a public-records request. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Until recently it was far too expensive for police to track the locations of innocent people such as Mr. Katz-Lacabe. But as surveillance technologies decline in cost and grow in sophistication, police are rapidly adopting them. Private companies are joining, too. At least two start-up companies, both founded by “repo men”—specialists in repossessing cars or property from deadbeats—are currently deploying camera-equipped cars nationwide to photograph people’s license plates, hoping to profit from the data they collect.
The rise of license-plate tracking is a case study in how storing and studying people’s everyday activities, even the seemingly mundane, has become the default rather than the exception. Cellphone-location data, online searches, credit-card purchases, social-network comments and more are gathered, mixed-and-matched, and stored in vast databases.
Data about a typical American is collected in more than 20 different ways during everyday activities…
[continues in the Wall Street Journal]
The fight to stop the government’s sweeping surveillance of emails and phone calls will go all the way to the Supreme Court. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the warrantless wiretapping provisions included under the FISA Amendment Acts.
The US House of Representative voted last week to reauthorize the 2008 amendments added to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, that allow for blanketing surveillance and eavesdropping of any communication suspected to be sent outside of the United States. Under the FISA Amendment Act (FAA), the government is granted the power to peer into the inboxes of any American and listen in on long-distance calls without ever requiring a judge’s approval. Pending approval from the Senate, the FAA will be renewed this year and be left on the books for another five years. The American Civil Liberties Union is adamantly opposed, however, and has asked the highest court in America to intervene.
Well it appears that our favorite government patrolled and controlled social media site, Facebook, is stepping up efforts to steal any personal information that you have not already provided voluntarily. From my perspective this is attacking people on a two step process.
Firstly, Facebook changes policies and all are considered virus infected unless going through a virus scan, without any proof that they have a virus infection, but that is alright, Facebook will create one. This is sounding quite government familiar already, isn’t it?
Okay, to keep their billion dollar system safe from the average school kid or mom and pop, we are forced to submit to this virus scan, which will only load unwanted software on our systems. Hopefully this assault is only performed on some of us and not all of us.
If you exclude the Canadian Provinces, Tennessee comes in #5 in States being speed traps, if you treat DC like a State.
For August 28, 2012 Release
Nationwide Poll Reveals Top U.S. and Canadian Speed Traps
Waunakee, WI — In the spirit of election season, the National Motorists Association (NMA) has conducted its own public polling to identify the worst speed trap locations across the United States and Canada.
Speed traps typically combine arbitrarily low speed limits with heavy traffic enforcement designed to generate ticket revenue. While the intent may be to modify driver behavior long-term, that is rarely the result. Speed traps keep springing up in the same locations, the issuance of tickets flows unabated, and there is no material effect on traffic safety. That is why the NMA advocates for increased speed limits in chronic speed trap areas supported by traffic studies and proven engineering principles.
The NMA analyzed the most recent five years of data from its website The National Speed Trap Exchange, which lists tens of thousands of chronic speed traps in the United States and Canada and includes descriptive commentary about each listing. Since postings are generated by the public, and users vote on which locations qualify as speed traps, the rankings reflect the consensus of thousands of drivers throughout North America.