Millions of Americans are having their movements tracked through automated scanning of their car license plates, with the records held often indefinitely in vast government and private databases.
A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union has found an alarming proliferation of databases across the US storing details of Americans' locations. The technology is not confined to government agencies – private companies are also getting in on the act, with one firm National Vehicle Location Service holding more than 800m records of scanned license plates.
"License plate readers are the most pervasive method of location tracking that nobody has heard of," said Catherine Crump, ACLU lawyer and lead author of the report. "They collect data on millions of Americans, the overwhelming number of whom are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing."
Crump said that the creeping growth of license plate scanners echoed the debate over the National Security Agency. "It raises the same question as the NSA controversy: do we want to live in a world where the government makes a record of everything we do – because that's what's being created by the growth of databases linked to license plate readers."
~ from Millions of US License Plates Tracked and Stored, New ACLU Report Finds by Ed Pilkington ~
There seems to be no end to all of this. Our phone calls are monitored and recorded. So too is all of our internet activity. Every piece of snail mail is photographed and stored in massive databases. We've recently learned that the government has the capability to listen into our private conversations in vehicles equipped with in-car communications and security features. Now we learn that they are tracking our movements with license plate scanners. And the day will be here soon when our skies are filled with drones that will be tracking our movements too.
What's next? Tiny cameras mounted in trees in parks and forests? Spying devices embedded in sporting equipment? Breakfast cereal that, once eaten, includes tracking chips to further chart our movements? Hey, why not stick a monitoring chip in the brains of all newborns so that the government spooks can record a person's every thought, dream or impulse!
I cannot fathom why more Americans are not up in arms about this creeping police state. Thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest the Zimmerman verdict -- a good cause in and of itself -- but you don't see these same people protesting against all this massive surveillance. How can we call this a free country if almost everything we do is recorded, analyzed and stored for future use?