One of the problems we have long had with some cities’ red light camera systems is the role of the private sector, which sometimes assumes inherently governmental functions such as deciding who gets a traffic ticket—as well as collecting a slice of the revenue. The Birmingham News recently posted a series on the issue of private companies assuming traditionally governmental functions. In Alabama, private companies have been involved not only with traffic enforcement but also such things as tax collection and auditing and probation administration. In one town this led to what a judge condemned as a “debtor’s prison” and a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket.” As Jim Williams, executive director of the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, put it, “We expect the private sector to be aggressive. The responsibility to set limits and make rules lies with the government.” Unfortunately, all too often when government makes use of the private sector, it does not structure the deals carefully enough to ensure that the profit motive does not trample rights. And (as I am quoted as saying in the piece) private companies are not subject to checks and balances such as open-records laws that have evolved over time for government. With privatization a continuing craze—and local hunger for revenue at an historic high—we can unfortunately expect to see more of such misguided efforts, especially in the technology area where innovation comes from the private sector.