Government’s relentless search for ever newer and more efficient ways in which to employ technology to gather data on citizens and with which to generate revenues, has found a new, favored toy: license-plate scanners.
Cities across the country, especially in the land of sunshine and surveillance — Los Angeles, California — are buying $20,000 license-plate scanners with abandon. The devices are installed on police cruisers (and probably other municipal vehicles, reportedly in some cities including street cleaning trucks). These high-tech snooping devices rapidly gather, analyze, and store digitized information on up to 1,500 license plates each and every minute they are in use.
City police and elected officials claim — as they always do — that these high-tech devices are employed only for the safety of the public and will be used sparingly and carefully so as to avoid invading citizens’ privacy. However, the lure of money to be generated by license-plate scanners to identify parking ticket scofflaws, for example, obviously trumps privacy concerns. Of course, if it’s not being done already, it is only a short matter of time before data generated by these surveillance devices will be used by police, prosecutors and private lawyers to try and prove where a certain vehicle was at a certain date and time.
At least one city — Tiburon, California — is considering placing the license-plate recognition cameras at all entry and exit roads in that San Francisco Bay area city. Such friendliness sure makes me want to drive out there and visit.