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License-Plate Scans Aid Crime-Solving But Spur Little Privacy Debate

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A license plate reader.

License-plate readers are feeding immense databases with details on Americans driving habits, helping to solve crimes despite little public awareness about the breadth of the data collected or how it is used.

Credit: Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Law enforcement agencies increasingly are using data gathered by the vast network of automated license-plate scanners to solve crimes.

The scanners initially were placed on telephone poles, police cars, toll plazas, bridges, and in parking lots, but now can be found on tow trucks and municipal garbage trucks as well.

License-plate scans were instrumental in the arrests of several suspected rioters at the U.S. Capitol.

However, there are concerns about abuse, misidentification, and the scope of data collection, given that, for instance, some systems read a plate's number but not its state.

Electronic Frontier Foundation's Dave Maass said, "License-plate readers are mass surveillance technology. They are collecting data on everyone regardless of whether there is a connection to a crime, and they are storing that data for long periods of time."

From The Wall Street Journal
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Abstracts Copyright © 2021 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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