Thursday, October 17, 2013

Reading, Riting, Rithmetic

Big Datty

You Are Being Tracked: How License Plate Readers Are Being Used to Record Americans' Movements
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
July 17, 2013
[full pdf]

Law enforcement or private companies can construct a virtual fence around a designated geographical area, to identify each vehicle entering that space.

-For example, Tiburon, California has license plate readers monitoring its only two roads that leave the town.

Cyrus Favriar, Rich California Town Considers License Plate Readers For Entire City Limits, Ars Technica (Mar. 5, 2013)
Prime Communications, Corporate Overview, Public Records Responses, p. 3557 [pdf]
ELSAG North America, Geofencing Capabilities of the Mobile Plate Hunter-900, p. 1 (Sept. 14, 2011) [pdf]

License plate data are widely shared in California’s Bay Area through the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), although the full extent of sharing is not publicly known. According to a May 2012 document, this fusion center’s goal is to collect license plate information from approximately 22 police departments, and grant access to several more. NCRIC maintains a broad mandate for its use of license plate information — in addition to law enforcement, NCRIC maintains that it may use license plate information for the “protection of special events; protection of critical infrastructure; and responding and mapping the license plate landscape of critical events.”

County of San Mateo, NCRIC Answers to Questions Submitted from Potential Vendors, p. 2 (May 22, 2012), at pp. 22737-40. [pdf]

While police departments and government agencies argue that the data they collect will be used only for proper purposes, even the International Association of Chiefs of Police has recognized that pervasive surveillance can have negative chilling effects regardless of its purpose. As it has explained, “The risk is that individuals will become more cautious in the exercise of their protected rights of expression, protest, association, and political participation because they consider themselves under constant surveillance.”

Psychologists have confirmed through multiple studies that people do in fact alter their behavior when they know they are being watched. In one such study, the mere presence of a poster of staring human eyes was enough to significantly change the participants’ behavior.

[but what does digital social media do to condition us on a mass-scale?]

International Association of Chiefs of Police, Privacy Impact Assessment Report for the Utilization of License Plate Readers, p. 13 (2009)
Sander van der Linden, How the Illusion of Being Observed Can Make You a Better Person, Sci. Am. (May 3, 2011)
M. Ryan Calo, People Can Be So Fake: A New Dimension to Privacy and Technology Scholarship, 114 Penn St. L. Rev. p. 809 (2010) [pdf]

[A problem with the 2013 NSA leaks (and, obviously, with the license plate readers mentioned herein), is that what could be perfectly benign, and potentially very beneficial to everyone (i.e. urban surveillance systems for use in 'smart cities'), becomes seriously suspicious. Something like the situation in the late 1960's, when many people were irresponsibly taking LSD and hurting themselves, an entire generation of scientists were stigmatized if they tried to do research using the drug. Today, and henceforth, the suspicion of the public will limit the studying and augmentation of urban information systems.]

exhibit A:
E-ZPass scanners track cars far away from toll plazas
Sept. 09, 2013

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