Privacy Concerns

One of the primary arguments against photo enforcement equipment is our constitutional right to privacy. Obviously, when one is in a public place or driving on a public street there is no expectation of privacy per se; however, honest, innocent American citizens DO have the right to not be actively surveilled and monitored with respect to where we go and what we do everyday. Sadly, it appears that Redflex and ATS are seeking to subvert our rights to privacy with their latest efforts to buy political support in order to sell their equipment.

Proponents like to argue that we are on video at ATMs, in stores, and everywhere else we go. While this is true, we do not wear tracking numbers such as to allow ourselves to be tracked and monitored. Nor are fines or citations automatically issued to business patrons. Citizens can also make the choice about whether to enter establishments with video cameras, but citizens generally cannot avoid use of public roadways.

Perhaps the best example of the privacy concerns associated with photo enforcement is in this article. In the UK, police have been using photo enforcement cameras to track and record plate numbers for use in general law enforcement and finding criminals. The article highlights a case where a man was tagged as a terrorist for attending an anti-war protest. Later he was pulled over, harassed, and questioned by an anti-terror unit. This is what people need to be afraid of. Who knows what innocent activities will land you on a hot list and subject you to harassment and tracking by police?

Police call handler who likened herself to 'Miss Marple' used police camera network to spy on her husband who she suspected of having an affair

Oct 28, 2014 Leicester Mercury - Article


A police call handler and self-styled Miss Marple misused the force’s computer systems to check up on the whereabouts of her husband.

Debra Smith (54) used Leicestershire Police’s systems as though they were “her own”, Leicester Crown Court was told.

Her activities included checking the whereabouts of her husband’s car on the automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) camera system when she suspected him of seeing someone else.

Man Rousted at Gunpoint After License Plate Scanner Misreads Plate

May. 5, 2014 - Article


We don't really know what the false positive rate for license plate scanners is, but we do know it has one. At least, Mark Molner, a Prairie Village, Kansas, attorney knows it, because a scanner misread his BMW's license plate for that of a stolen Oldsmobile plate, and the next thing he knew, cops with guns in hand had him surrounded and wanted to know his business.

UK: Privacy Report Blasts Use Of License Plate Cameras

Oct. 17, 2013 - Article


A UK-based civil liberties group issued a report earlier this month warning of the potential misuse of automated number plate recognition cameras (ANPR, or ALPR in the US). The group No CCTV traces use of license plate reading cameras to Home Office experiments in 1976 and the 1982 installation of video monitoring on London's Dartford Tunnel. From that simple device, which filmed passing vehicles so that a separate computer could process the images and identify and record the license plate number within 15 seconds, a far more powerful surveillance network emerged.

Today, local police forces use ANPR to track vehicles in their jurisdiction, and the data collected on movements is transmitted to the National ANPR Data Centre, a centralized repository for the location information that empowers government officials to use data mining tools to find where any individual has driven over the last two years. The system stores photographs of individual vehicles for 90 days. At least 18 million plates are entered daily into the database which stores a total of 11.2 billion records.

Virginia: Cops Spied On Motorists At Political Rallies

Oct. 14, 2013 - Article


Documents released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia confirm that until earlier this year, the Virginia State Police used cameras to track motorists attending political events in 2008. Automated license plate readers (ALPR or ANPR in Europe) are used by law enforcement agencies throughout the country, ostensibly to fight crime by finding stolen cars. A March 18, 2009 state police memo also documents the use of the "Help Eliminate Auto Theft" (HEAT) camera to identify attendees at campaign events for then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Admin Note: Speed or Red Light Cameras are often equipped with the same capabilities.

Traffic light camera scam steals your identity

Sep. 19, 2011 Yahoo Autos - Article


Traffic light cameras are annoying at the best of times, but while some people manage to escape the fines, most of us simply pay up without thinking about it or questioning whether the charge is valid. Tricky scammers are taking advantage of that lazy human tendency, making a handful of money and stealing identities in the process.

Canada: Privacy Commissioner Concerned Over License Plate Spying

Oct. 18, 2009 - Article


The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada expressed concern last week over the growing police use of technology to spy on motorists. In a letter to the Nanaimo Daily News, Assistant Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier emphasized that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had not received the commissioner's approval for the agency's use of license plate recognition devices. Known as ANPR in the UK and ALPR in North America, these cameras use a combination of electronic databases, cameras and optical character recognition software to identify each passing vehicle. Over time, the devices create a searchable log containing the exact time and date that each automobile passed a given location.

The privacy 'red flags' are not theoretical. Last year, police in Hertfordshire, England dropped a USB drive containing unencrypted logs of motorist movements in the gutter. In 2005, traffic camera vendor Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) abandoned a box of photo radar tickets on a park bench in Edmonton, Canada. In the same year, Edmonton Sun columnist Kerry Diotte personally experienced how such systems could be used against political opponents. According to court testimony, police angered by Diotte's criticism of photo radar accessed an electronic database in a failed effort to frame Diotte for drunk driving.

Camera grid to log number plates

May. 22, 2009 BBC.CO.UK - Article


A national network of cameras and computers automatically logging car number plates will be in place within months, the BBC has learned.

John Catt found himself on the wrong side of the ANPR system. He regularly attends anti-war demonstrations outside a factory in Brighton, his home town.

It was at one of these protests that Sussex police put a "marker" on his car. That meant he was added to a "hotlist."

This is a system meant for criminals but John Catt has not been convicted of anything and on a trip to London, the pensioner found himself pulled over by an anti-terror unit.

Show Low to start using speed cameras

Dec. 13, 2008 - Article

Show Low is joining other Arizona cities and towns using speed cameras to enforce its speed limits.

The city council awarded a contract last month to Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. to operate up to 10 speed and red-light enforcement cameras. The cameras will also include license-plate readers for identifying suspect and stolen vehicles.

The contract award comes after a series of fatal traffic crashes during the summer in the eastern Arizona town of 11,000.

According to a city staff report, there were three fatal crashes inside four weeks, compared with an average of one traffic fatality per year.

The city will spend $219,195 to set up the system. Officials expect fines to pay for the cameras and generate enough for extra court staff and police officers.

Redflex already operates traffic cameras in Peoria, Tempe and on Valley freeways.

Show Low is the first city in Arizona (to our knowledge) to implement ALPR: Auto License Plate Reading. This is the surveillance and tracking of every vehicle that rolls by - whether they are speeding or not. Information is stored in a database for months if not longer. --admin

Photo Ticket Cameras to Track Drivers Nationwide

Sept. 16, 2008 - Article

Private companies in the US are hoping to use red light cameras and speed cameras as the basis for a nationwide surveillance network similar to one that will be active next year in the UK. Redflex and American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the top two photo enforcement providers in the US, are quietly shopping new motorist tracking options to prospective state and local government clients. Redflex explained the company's latest developments in an August 7 meeting with Homestead, Florida officials.

"We are moving into areas such as homeland security on a national level and on a local level," Redflex regional director Cherif Elsadek said. "Optical character recognition is our next roll out which will be coming out in a few months -- probably about five months or so."

The technology would be integrated with the Australian company's existing red light camera and speed camera systems. It allows officials to keep full video records of passing motorists and their passengers, limited only by available hard drive space and the types of cameras installed. To gain public acceptance, the surveillance program is being initially sold as an aid for police looking to solve Amber Alert cases and locate stolen cars.

"Imagine if you had 1500 or 2000 cameras out there that could look out for the partial plate or full plate number across the 21 states where we do business today," Elsadek said. "This is the next step for our technology."

ATS likewise is promoting motorist tracking technologies. In a recent proposal to operate 200 speed cameras for the Arizona state police, the company explained that its ticketing cameras could be integrated into a national vehicle tracking database. This would allow a police officer to simply enter a license plate number into a laptop computer and receive an email as soon as a speed camera anywhere in the state recognized that plate.

Such programs would be fully consistent with existing law on searches and seizures. In the 2003 case Washington v. William Bradley Jackson, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that police could not use a physical GPS tracking device to monitor a suspect's movements without first obtaining a warrant. No warrant would be needed or restrictions applied to license plate tracking systems which do not require any physical contact. Instead, individual police officers could monitor the movements of suspected criminals or even their wives and neighbors at any time.

In the past, police databases have been used to intimidate innocent motorists. An Edmonton, Canada police sergeant, for example, found himself outraged after he read columnist Kerry Diotte criticize his city's photo radar operation in the Edmonton Sun newspaper. The sergeant looked up Diotte's personal information, and, without the assistance of electronic scanners, ordered his subordinates to "be on the lookout" for Diotte's BMW. Eventually a team of officers followed Diotte to a local bar where they hoped to trap the journalist and accuse him of driving under the influence of alcohol. Diotte took a cab home and the officers' plan was exposed after tapes of radio traffic were leaked to the press. Police later cleared themselves of any serious wrong-doing following an extensive investigation.

In the UK, officials are planning to dramatically expand the use of average speed cameras that track cars over distances as great as six miles. Records on all vehicle movements taken from a nationwide network of cameras will be stored for five years in a central government Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) server, allowing police to keep tabs on criminals and political opponents. Work on the data center in north London began in 2005 and officials expect real-time, nationwide tracking capability to be available by January.