The technology known as automatic licence plate recognition systems, or ALPR devices continue to spread across the state. As NJ.com reports,these devices can scan and store the location data for thousands of cars per hour.
The ALPR automatically and continually scans, focuses and photographs all license plates within range, then converts them into electronic text documents, which are then run through the “be on the lookout,” or “BOLO,” list – which can include information from the National Crime Information Center, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as well as the state Motor Vehicle Commission.
But the use of this data collected is not exclusively restricted to “wanted” or BOLO plates. The data can be mined for other investigative purposes, and the actions and movements of those not wanted for any crime can be analyized at any time where the plate exists in the database. From the article:
But the Attorney General also said that local authorities are also authorized to use an entire list of license plate numbers, not just ones that pop up as “wanted” plates, from the automatic readers to establish a list of cars near a crime scene – which might lead to discovery of evidence or information relevant to the crime, the state wrote in its directive.
We have been talking about the massive surveillance implications of these devices for some time. So it is exciting to see the National and New Jersey ACLU actively involved in finding out exactly what is going on with this massive government data gathering effort.
This problem is only going to get larger. The technology is getting cheaper by the day, so even small police departments can afford these systems. Especially with the pitch that they can “pay for themselves” if you use them to locate traffic ticket scofflaws or people behind in their municipal taxes.
And ALPR systems are also frequently funded by grants from the Federal Department of Homeland Security, under the condition that the data collected is shared with the Feds. So the data collected on the streets of Perth Amboy, or other New Jersey towns, as well as those across the country, can all be loaded into massive databases at the NSA. And once the data is out there, you are never going to get control of it.
It’s now or never, citizens.