You Are Being Watched: License Plate Readers & The End Of Privacy Page 2

October 1, 2012



It's hard to argue against LPRs when they're being used to fight big crimes like auto theft, kidnapping, and terrorism. However, it's also possible to use LPRs to catch low-level crimes, like parking violations. 

That's because the law is currently on the side of LPR operators. While you might expect that the contents of your vehicle are your own and should remain private, that privacy doesn't extend to your license plate. In fact, in the case of United States vs. Ellison, an appellate court found that "a motorist has no reasonable expectation of privacy in the information contained on his license plate under the Fourth Amendment". (The Fourth Amendment is the one that protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures.)

In the best of all possible worlds, the government would establish standards for LPRs and similar monitoring systems to protect individual privacy. Our inclination is to have such standards set at the federal level, so there's a degree of consistency from state to state.

That's important not only for drivers, but also for non-drivers. Before long, facial recognition cameras will be as widely deployed as LPRs, so issues like these -- issues around technology and privacy -- ought to be resolved sooner rather than later.

Are you comfortable with LPRs, or do they give you the willies? Drop us a line, or leave a note in the comments below.

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