We think this technology is scarier than any costume you’ll see on the streets this week
It’s that time of year when people don sinister masks, spray themselves with fake blood, and generally go all out for a good fright. But here at EFF, we think there are plenty of real-world ghouls to last all year-round. Fortunately, we won’t let them hide under your bed. Sometimes our work sounds like science fiction, but the surveillance techniques and technology we fight are all too real. Here are some of the beasts hiding in your backyard that we’ve been fighting to expose:
Automated License Plate Readers
Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) are cameras that can either be mounted on squad cars or stationary. They read license plates and record the time, date, and location a particular car was encountered. And they’re paving the way for wholesale tracking of every driver’s movements. ALPRs can scan up to 1,800 license plates per minute, and can collect data on vast numbers of vehicles. In Los Angeles, for example, the Los Angeles Police Department and Sheriff’s Department collect data on 3 million cars per week.
Much like metadata about phone calls, the information obtained from ALPRs reveals sensitive personal information. In fact, the International Association of Chiefs of Police issued a report in 2009 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.”