Thursday, May 19, 2022

There Are Some Questions


They are here to stay.

There is one on Maple Avenue in Wethersfield just before joining the Berlin Turnpike.

You see them on the trunk of police cars.

What are they?

License plate readers as you drive by either the camera mounted on a telephone pole or the backs of police cars read your license plate, check the database to see if the car is wanted or stolen, and records the date, time, and place of the reading, and then stores the data.

It is the very last part in have trouble with, the storing and the usage of the data.

License plate-reading cameras, just installed in West Hartford, meant to fight crime, police say
By Jesse Leavenworth
Hartford Courant
May 18, 2022

West Hartford — License plate-reading cameras have been placed around West Hartford to help solve and reduce crime, police said.

The 13 cameras were installed in strategic areas during a trial period for testing and evaluation that runs through June 30, Assistant Police Chief Lawrence Terra said Wednesday. Built by Flock Safety, the cameras are not meant to record plates for traffic and parking offenses, but rather for serious crimes, police said.

The cameras capture vehicle information, not people or faces, and send instant alerts to police when a stolen car or wanted suspect from a state or national database enters town, police said. The cameras also can send alerts if a vehicle associated with a missing person in an AMBER or Silver Alert is detected.

Police want to see how efficient, cost effective and useful the system is and plan to compare the Flock Safety cameras with similar products made by other companies, Terra said.

Police say they will maintain an updated policy around the system. Each search requires justification, and the data is never sold or shared with third parties, police said.

“...the data is never sold or shared with third parties…” but there are no laws preventing that, it is just a policy and a policy can be changed with a stroke of a pen, or now a days with a click of a key.

Atlanta-based Flock Safety is described on its website as a public safety operating system that helps communities and law enforcement in over 1,500 cities work together to eliminate crime. The company cites statistics from the International Association of Chiefs of Police that up to 70% of crime involves the use of a vehicle, making registration records crucial to many investigations.

Now suppose their database is hacked?

Or suppose that Flock Safety is sold and the new company sells the information to ad companies and all of sudden you are getting ads to your favorite store that you visit just like the ads on Facebook when  you look at other ads and like ads are now popping up on Facebook and other websites?

Can you imagine what towns would think if someone offers the town millions of dollars to be able to sell your data? Would the towns say no, or would they go for the money so that they can keep taxes lower?

Another question pops up. Who owns the data? The police? The data reader company?

Then there is the questions on what the data can be used for by the police and which departments?

What happens when it misreads a license plate? (Someone ran a toll in New Jersey and I was told a warrant for my arrest would be issued if I didn’t pay the toll plus the fine. The summons had a picture of “my car” running the tolls, only it wasn’t my car and the license plate. After several back and forths , where I said look at the photo and look at my registration you can see that they are different, that they sent my a form that I had to sign and have it notarized.)

Where will they be located? In black and minority neighborhoods? In the white suburbs? In front of a drug clinic? What about by a homeless shelter? How about an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office?

Also how long is the data kept? I read some testimony from a bill that addresses these questions and many police department want to keep the data forever and ever. The ACLU wanted something like 30 days.

The new technology is not going away, it is here and the genie is out of the bottle and there is no stopping it.

But we can control it.

We can pass laws on who owns the data, to limit who has access to the information, and how long can the data be kept. 30 days? 90 days? A year? 10 year? Forever? And also how do we correct errors in the information like I had? We can control where they are used, could one be put outside of a lawyers office? 

So what does this have to do with trans people?

Well suppose you lived down in Texas and they stuck up one of these readers in front of a gender client? Would you feel safe to go there for your medical care? Would you take you trans child there?

What about if they put one outside of a LGBTQ community center where a trans support group meets?

Suppose that there was a big peaceful rally out in front of the statehouse in Austin and the police with police car mounted license plate-readers drove up and the streets around the peaceful protest recording the license plates of all the cars parked nearby, would you go to the protests or would you be intimidated and keep away?

These are some of the questions that we need to ask and we need laws to set the ground rules. There have been bills introduced and hearing held. Some of the information that came out of the hearings were…



Written Testimony Supporting  House Bill 6965, An Act Concerning the Retention of Information Collected When Using Infrared Number Plate Scanning Technology

We cannot put the genie back in the bottle but we can regulate it.

We can set the ground rules now. Will we be like China where your every movement is tracked by the government cameras?


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