Cops in Maryland are quickly cutting down on their time spent running license plates by using what are called automatic license plate readers (ALPR). These nifty devices scan your plates automatically and check for insurance, validity, and other key safety issues. This is all well and good, according to civil liberties watchdog, the ACLU, but what they do with said information has the ACLU up in arms.
The ACLU has growing concerns with how long the information is retained in these ALPRs and worries that this ever-rowing data may eventually allow the government to precisely predict every move you make. So for all of you conspiracy theorists that think the gummament is watchin’ ya, this is just another nugget to keep in your head.
In a released statement, the ACLU says:
“If license plate scans, which are typically stamped with a location, time, and date, were used just for these purposes and deleted shortly thereafter, privacy concerns would be minimal to non-existent. After all, police can run license plates against these databases themselves. ALPR technology simply cuts down on the time and manpower required to perform these functions on a large scale.
The privacy issues arise with the retention of the information. A police officer will not forever remember the exact location and time of an innocent motorist’s travels. With ALPR technology, those details can be stored indefinitely, creating an ever-growing historical record of the daily comings and goings of every Marylander. As ALPRs become more ubiquitous and that record becomes longer and more detailed, it will become possible for the government to determine a person’s exact movements during any given time period.”
However, the police taking records of our license plate activity is one of the more primitive tracking devices that the government has access to in order to track us. There are many more active and precise devices that we all use on a daily basis that allows the government to keep tabs on us.
To see what other devices the government can use to track us, simply click past the jump.
gallery: Ford Police Interceptor
With today’s on-demand society, navigation systems are pretty much compulsory. Gone are the days of hitting up MapQuest and printing out directions that involve actual reading and attention to detail. This new-age system allows you to drive almost thoughtlessly with a computerized voice – typically one of your choice – tells you to “Turn left ahead.”
So, when you first buy a navigation system, you are still essentially off of the grid as the company has no clue who that dot on their satellite system is. Well, if you decide to upgrade your maps, suddenly, you have to register and the company obviously then takes the machine’s serial number. This means that they essentially know where you are, or your navigation system at least, at any given time. Police can likely subpoena this data feed and track you down in no time flat.
Solution: Don’t update your maps and just deal with the GPS constantly telling you to turn left off of that 300-foot cliff where a bridge once was... 30 years ago.
A new idea in car insurance for the more advanced companies, like Progressive, is to somehow track your driving habits to see if you are a lower-risk driver. I actually have one of these cool devices that plugs into my OBD-II receptacle and beep every time I drive like a jackass, which resulted in me just unplugging it when I decide I want to push my little turbocharged micro-machine hard. Well, Progressive, like most companies, claim that they do not look at where you drive, but rather when and how you drive. This system is not GPS-based, but they somehow know what times you drive and the speed you drive. And, as you know, police can subpoena this information too.
Solution: Most insurance companies offer an opt-out option for these systems. Actually, with Progressive, you need to opt in to the system under the guise of saving on your insurance after 30 days of tracking. So, you can just opt-out or not opt in from the get-go. I, for one, like money, so I will take the risk of the gummament knowing that I frequent the gym every day at 5:00 p.m. and that I have a sick obsession with Chinese food.
If you receive a satellite signal in any way, you can, theoretically, be tracked. Well, satellite radio is slowly becoming what cable TV was in the `80s. It started off with people saying “Why would I pay for that when I get it for free,” then suddenly chalking it up as just another regular utility bill 10 years later. The feed you receive goes to a serial numbered receiver, which then attaches to an account in your name. If your Satellite radio unit happens to have a GPS capability too, they gotcha.
Solution: Toss the satellite radio receiver in a lake and switch the dial to good `ol static-filled, commercial-laden FM radio. Heck, you can even opt for the squelchy goodness that is AM radio for all we care. The gummament can’t track that... yet.
Cars are turning into rolling computers these days, some of which use your smartphone to post Facebook updates. As if telling the world what you’re doing at home is not enough, you can now tell them all of the excitement that is your driving life. Well, if you are trying to stay off the grid, stay off of the Facebook and definitely stop with the “Check in” feature. Yes, you’ll lead the gummament straight to you that way.
Solution: Do you really need social networking while you drive? How about networking with the traffic in front of and around you by paying attention to the damn road and not Sally’s relationship status.
We almost left this off. If you are worried about “The man” finding you, yet you still own a cellphone, may we serenade you with a lovely array of “DUH!!!” Cell phones almost all have a GPS feature for 911 to use to hunt you down in a pinch. This GPS can also work in helping the boys in blue track your silly behind down and harass you. You can try turning the GPS feature off until your blue in the face, they can still track you down in your car. In fact, now they can even do it without a warrant since the Federal Court just ruled that all police officers need is "reasonable grounds" and they can obtain location data from a cellphone in order to track a suspect.
If you’re really that worried about the gummament coming to get you, you have to eliminate the avenues of access. License plate trackers are the last thing you should worry about. They just show a pattern. The above devices, on the other have, provide live, up-to-the-second updates of where you are... Creepy, huh? Happy driving!!