Police in one Georgia community are hailing a new license plate scanning system as a benefit to law enforcement efforts, but concerns remain for civil liberties and privacy advocates. According to the Rockdale Citizen, the Rockdale Georgia County Sheriff’s office is the latest law enforcement agency to deploy automatic license plate readers.
These systems take high tech cameras and mount them on Sheriff’s patrol cars, and connect them with computer systems inside the vehicle. The cameras are programs to take pictures of all license plates within visual range, capable of analyzing thousands of tags per hour. The plates are instantly scanned, and matched with an on-board database of cars with law enforcement flags, or drivers who may be wanted.
If a car that is identified in the database is found, the officer in the vehicle is instantly alerted.
The most common use of this data is for recovering stolen vehicles, and driver’s with outstanding warrants. Other infractions that you can be pulled over for include lapsed insurance, or suspended driver’s license.
The Rockdale Sheriff quoted in the article dismisses privacy concerns about scanning the plates of innocent citizens. He said the system “does not technically run the tag of every person and know who they are”.
While that is true, the data is still collected saved, and marked with a date, time, and GPS location. So if the government cares to look, they can go back and search for where you may have been spotted at any time in the future. And as more of these systems go online across Georgia and nationwide, and all the raw data is shared across law enforcement agencies, it’s easy to see how the government can easily collect a vast history of the movements of every citizen on the road.
While most citizens would be uncomfortable with this level of government surveillance, it is important to know that it is happening. Driving on a suspended license and not getting caught is going to be an increasingly unlikely event.