As we slip further into the dystopian police state of Orwell’s 1984, yet another federal agency is gaining access to a database powered by license plate readers that can tell them exactly where you’ve been and when you were there.
U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will begin tapping into an enormous national license-plate database as part of its continuing crackdown on illegal immigrants. ICE is contracting with Vigilant Solutions, a private company that has put together a database of more than 2 billion license plate numbers.
ICE is not the only government agency using the information – in fact, Vigilant Solutions has amassed its database through partnerships with local law enforcement agencies and private businesses.
License Plate Readers in Myrtle Beach – You are in The Government’s Database
The information Vigilant Solutions provides is gathered by automatic license plate readers.
Where are the readers? They’re everywhere…
There are now tens of thousands of them. Mounted on police cars. Bolted onto traffic signs, bridges, and overpasses. They use tiny, high-speed cameras that can snap photos of thousands of license plates every minute. Agencies with access to the database can use the information to find out where you were (or, at least, where your car was) and when you were there.
By the way, if you live in or near Myrtle Beach, you are probably in the database, and your movements are being recorded on a daily basis.
Not Just for Illegal Immigrants or Crime Suspects
The license plate readers track everyone – not just people who are connected to a law-enforcement investigation.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, some of the information the trackers collect is stored indefinitely and is shared with law enforcement agencies and private businesses, such as companies that repossess cars on behalf of creditors.
…some of the information the trackers collect is stored indefinitely and is shared with law enforcement agencies and private businesses, such as companies that repossess cars on behalf of creditors…
This means that anyone with access to the database has detailed location information about millions of people who are in no way connected to, or even suspected of being connected to, criminal activity of any kind.
According to the ACLU:
These private databases raise serious privacy concerns. Their massive size suggests that they contain a great deal of information about our movements. These huge databases of plate information are not subject to any data security or privacy regulations governing license plate reader data. These companies decide who can access license plate data and for what purposes.
Fighting Oversight and Accountability
What is this information being used for? Do federal agencies use the database for warrantless surveillance? Finding out is proving difficult.
Federal agencies that use the database have resisted ACLU’s attempts to find out how they use the information, and the organization has filed a federal lawsuit to force them to provide more information to the public.
In 2014, ICE abandoned a plan to set up a national tracking system for license plates because of privacy concerns. Congress would have been unlikely to approve such a plan, but ICE has now avoided Congressional scrutiny by signing a one-year contract with Vigilant Solutions.
We can trust the police to respect the Constitution and our privacy, right?
Doubtful. The International Association of Chiefs of Police has sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to not place any future restrictions on law enforcement’s ability to use license plate trackers and related databases.
SC Criminal Defense Attorney in Myrtle Beach and Conway
Attorney Daniel Selwa represents clients accused of crimes throughout the Myrtle Beach, Conway, Georgetown, and Horry County areas. If you have been charged with a crime, call Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyer Daniel Selwa at (843) 492-5449 or fill out our online contact form to set up a free consultation.