What happened to privacy?

If you are like me then you see the addition of new technology throughout our life as an exciting time to be alive.  But, you must also think of what can be done with it. More and more recently I have been seeing Patrol cars and what seem to be private sector cars with weird cameras mounted on the trunk.

Well this system is call the “mobile plate hunter” (MPH-900). It is manufactured by a company called. ELSAG (http://www.elsag.com). The entire premise behind this system is to automate the scanning of license plates while the officer drives around town. If a plate that is reported stolen, expired, Driver license suspending or a few other offenses is seen it will alert the officers.

This is all fine if that’s all it did and was limited to being only on marked patrol cars. So reading into the other products of ELSAG I started to see a trend.  Looks like all of their products are aimed to work together.  This is normal and not exciting.  What is exciting is this….

On top of scanning plates it also stores the time, date, GPS and pictures. Stores this information in a database so it can be queried later. From this data you can derive patterns. These patterns can be used to track and determine the routines of a criminal. Also the normal unsuspecting civilian.

Here is an excerpt from one of their sales PDF’s.  located at http://elsag.com/media/content/ELSAG_capabilities-ss(1).pdf

• Captures up to 1,800 reads per minute, day or night
• Processes parked and moving vehicles across 4 lanes of traffi c
• Captures plates at up to 150 mph (241 kph) closing speeds and passing speeds
• Recognizes plates from all 50 states, Canada, and Mexico and reads Arabic characters
• Finds suspect vehicles within milliseconds of passing them
• Alerts offi cers immediately if a vehicle is suspect, indicating the nature of the offense
• Identifi es suspended and revoked drivers before they cause a crash
• Captures criminal intelligence data including date and time stamps, GPS coordinates and
photo of the license plate
• Criminal intelligence capabilities aid in: Witness identifi cation, Watch list development,
Placing suspect at a scene,Terrorist interdiction, Pattern recognition
• Enhances effectiveness of Amber Alerts
• Secures sensitive areas with Geofencing
• Increases revenues by collecting delinquent taxes, fees, and fi nes
• Utilizes digital cameras available which capture much larger license plate image
revealing part of the car, and its immediate surroundings


You know what really stands out to me on this? The term “geofencing” with this system you have the ability to mark a plate to alert if it moves from a pre-determined area.  Also think of this. This plate recognition can be also be used on stationary cameras throughout the city.

Here are the questions I want answers to:

1) Is it legal for third party contractors to mount this system and report into the police dept database?

2) How long is the data retained in the database.

3) How is this data being used

4) Is the data that is not flagged as a “hot” plate removed from the system?



For more information on this product please visit http://www.elsag.com




One comment

  1. beppo says:

    Also keep in mind that fully automated drones are becoming much more legal. As far as what a drone is, it’s any autonomously controlled aircraft, even tiny quadrocopters that use miniaturized cameras of whatever resolution. You can fit a 20 megapixel camera, with zoom, into a package that will fit on a quardocopter that’s roughly the size of a tablet in dimensions, but about as hard to see as a cell phone at 1000 feet above ground level.

    But that doesn’t even cover the fact that every smartphone is logging your position at all times.