DEA aim is ‘central repository’ of captured license plate data on highways, ACLU says
The Drug Enforcement Administration is already using scanners to capture license plates on highways in several Western states and wants to expand in Utah, according to testimony in a hearing last week in Utah.
While the use of the scanners is growing at a local level, “use by a federal agency raises new issues and questions,” the ACLU said in a post on its site. “To begin with, the federal government is in more of a position to create a centralized repository of drivers’ movements, so federal deployment of the technology is even more serious a matter than widespread local deployment.”
Gary Newcomb of the DEA told Utah legislators that GPS coordinates and travel direction would be captured along with the plate itself. ”If the DEA or another law enforcement agency has input a license plate number for a car to be stopped immediately, local police would be notified by email or a cell phone text message when that plate crossed the scanner,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
To DEA insistence that the data would only be used for drug trafficking and serious crimes, the ACLU scoffed “ We’ve seen this dynamic many times—a new surveillance technique is unveiled supposedly for use only against the most extreme criminals and is quickly expanded to much broader use… . The DEA official in charge of this program, Gary Newcomb, made it clear that this program is already envisioned as expanding dramatically.”
“From a drug perspective, interdiction, I love the sounds of this. “From the public relations aspect and government intrusion into the public’s life, I hate this. It sounds awful,” the Deseret News quoted quoted Senate President Michael Waddoups as saying.
The News said scanners are now being used along in border towns in California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. ”Moving into the country’s interior along known drug trafficking routes is the second phase of a three-phase project that would end with scanners being placed along the country’s northern border,” the News said.
A tag scanner. Source: helimedia.co.uk
UPDATE Jay Stanley: “[L]ooking forward, if nothing is done, we can expect this technology to expand not only geographically, but also in how it is used. In particular, we can expect all kinds of cross-referencing and data mining techniques to be applied to the information streams generated by [license plate] scanners.”