The Chilling Effects of License-Plate Location Tracking

Location tracking has far-reaching implications for the way we live, even if we don't think we've done anything wrong. Our recent report, "You Are Being Tracked," shows that automatic license plate readers allow law enforcement to track every car on the road, not just those relevant to an investigation. This type of widespread tracking endangers our rights of protest and association and has the potential to reach deep into our lives and alter our daily decision making.

License plate readers are poised to become commonplace. As we note in our report: license plate readers have proliferated, they no longer capture individuals' movements at only a few points. Increasingly, they are capturing drivers' locations outside church, the doctor's office, and school, giving law enforcement and private companies that run the largest databases the ability to build detailed pictures of our lives.

Knowing or suspecting that we're being watched can stop us from engaging in certain kinds of behavior, even when it's perfectly lawful. For example, it might affect our decision to go to a certain barber (what would my other barber say?), meet up with a friend (what would my mom say?), eat at a restaurant (what would my trainer say?), or take the scenic route (is it suspicious that I'm not using my normal route?). Surveillance changes the way we make daily decisions—the same way that a rapidly approaching police car in your rearview mirror may make you feel nervous even when you are driving completely lawfully.

And it doesn't necessarily matter that it's not your mom or your trainer behind the license plate reader pointed at your car. Once your location information is collected and stored by a third party, you have lost control over it, and there is no way to know whose hands it will end up in. We acknowledge this instinctively when we feel discomfort about being watched or followed by anyone, not just those who are most consequential in our lives. When people feel that their movements may be recorded, they feel less comfortable traveling freely and engaging in activities that might be controversial or stigmatizing, even when those activities are important or beneficial.

Even the police have acknowledged the chilling effects of surveillance. A 2011 report by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) noted that individuals may become "more cautious in the exercise of their protected rights of expression, protest, association, and political participation" due to license plate reader systems. The IACP report continues:

Recording driving habits could implicate First Amendment concerns. Specifically, LPR systems have the ability to record vehicles' attendance at locations or events that, although lawful and public, may be considered private. For example, mobile LPR units could read and collect the license plate numbers of vehicles parked at addiction counseling meetings, doctors' offices, health clinics, or even staging areas for political protests.

This chilling effect may be especially pronounced for license plate reader data collection, where information about where you travel can be used to infer information about who you are. In some cases, merely having your car parked in a certain area may be enough to gain law enforcement scrutiny. The IACP report remarks that it may be useful to know whether a car was parked near a domestic violence call or previous crime scene, whether or not the owner of that vehicle was involved.

Unfortunately, these examples are far from improbable. In New York City, police officers used unmarked vehicles with license plate readers to track congregants at local mosques. In Colorado, as one of our public records requests revealed (page 7933 of this document), the Adams County Sheriff's Department demonstrated license plate reader technology by singling out music lovers for surveillance, sweeping a rave party and a concert at a country-western bar (first it's the line dancers, next they'll come for the swing dancers, and then the bedroom mirror dancers?).

In order to limit the chilling effects of this new technology, our report recommends a strict retention policy:

Law enforcement agencies must not store data about innocent people for any lengthy period. Unless plate data has been flagged, retention periods should be measured in days or weeks, not months, and certainly not years.

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vicki b

If data is collected on law abiding citizens and stored there are huge ramifications. Say there is a jurist on an important case, or a reporter that is just about to crack an important story on lets say a bank payoff to a politician.....we have records of your visit to the psychologist or drug counselor. Do you like your job? How about a new politician that bucks the system? Well, remember that time your car was parked outside that hotel..without your wife? Do you love your family and career? H
Even better...we don't like the pressure this specific group is giving us. They are really getting the public to open their eyes. We know where the meetings are, where the members go. where they eat and which routes they take...well, well in the wrong hands there are all kinds of possibilities from infiltration to set ups...oh the possibilities! How about tracking that pesky reporter check on who they are meeting. Ooh what a cocoon we can be bound by!

Pamela Martinez...

The license plate issue is only one small issue among what has been going on. I can substantiate everything in the book I wrote which is entitled: "I GOT THE DEATH PENALTY...BUT SOMEONE FORGOT TO TELL ME!" It involves 3 years of research. I am a victim of domestic violence. I have 4 radio frequency chips implanted in my body which have been proven by two different organizations. Doctors in CA are afraid of the govt and will not tell the truth. I went out of state and got x rays of implants throughout different parts of my body. I cannot contact the media or anyone for assistance because all of my communication is monitored by the govt. When people call, they receive a disconnected notice and my emails are often deleted before I CAN even read them. I will be very surprised if you receive this comment. I have had many non consensual experiments performed on me and can substantiate all of my information. The most important of those being by CaRP Laboratories, involving stem cell and cloning research. They are killing me and I do not have much time left. Someone needs to get this story before it is too late. I have x rays and so much evidence that I am a huge liability, therefore it's imperative that someone reaches out and gets this story before it's too late. If this is the only legacy I can leave then let it be so....but please do not ignote this as I have many others that I can present that also have been going thru this with me. There are thousands of Americans that are chipped and worked on, on a daily basis. Please take a stand and get this info out to the public. The license plate is nothing in comparison to invading your body!!!!! GET THIS INFO OUT. Call me or come by: 820 Center Street #1 Costa Mesa, CA 92627 I won't be around forever and at this moment I can prove everything, medically!!! Please help becaue many of you are chipped also, but have not realized it yet!!!
Sincerely, Pamela Cleeton Martinez

Pamela Martinez...

Your comment has been queued for moderation by site administrators and will be published after approval.
Is this true? Or is it a block by the powers that be to prevent me from getting my info out.????


I live in a country (the UK) that utilizes ALPR on a daily basis for Policing purposes. The British Police have a network of fixed ALPR cameras (in the thousands) that are used to not only locate stolen/wanted vehicles but also to do historical analysis of vehicles nearby the scene of a crime, in order to assist the police with focussing on the right people. It has proven to be a hugely valuable tool and to my knowledge not one person in over 20 years of ALPR use has been arrested for doing something that is not illegal.

It's also not all about crime, the camera data is also used to regularly locate missing and vulnerable people, for example many elderly people who have got lost and suicidal people heading towards the nearest cliff can attest to the cameras actually saving there lives.

It's not about the technology, it's about how it's used and by whom. If it's done right then ALPR will improve crime detection and does not affect the daily life of any law abiding individual.


I was born free in America and still live free, if the government wants to know when I go to my girlfriends house, to the mall , to the grocery store, to the dollar store, or go fishing, or go hunting, or go get a snickers bar from the gas station. ohhhhhhhhhhhh well let them. I am not hiding anything. the people that get bent out of shape are usually the ones with something to hide. What are you afraid of. Or do you not have anything better to do with your time and life but cause anarchy and hate in the general public. Good lord people get over it and live your life, they don't care you are cheating on your wife or whatever. But you will be the first to cry and yell when terrorist bomb and kill Americans , Or a drunk uninsured motorist kills a child. Think People.

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