ALPR Technology: Data Mining Threat?
Jay Stanley's article about the privacy threat that automatic license plate readers (ALPR) and related technologies pose to average Americans may seem a bit histrionic in tone, but the point seems valid enough. Stanley is a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, whose primary purpose is to monitor the privacy threat that emerging technologies represent, so the fright-inducing tone of the hypothetical scenarios offered at the end of the article makes sense. However, I feel a more factual basis for the hypothetical scenarios would have helped make Stanley's case to skeptical readers.
Stanley's article begins with a factual approach more in line with a journalistic tone. The article begins by referring to a previous blog post concerning efforts by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to place ALPR devices on interstate highways. This lead-in introduces the fact that data collected by these devices will be stored for two years, thus the data mining threat. The official purpose of ALPR data storage is to collect intelligence concerning the movements of suspects and for statistical analysis. Stanley suggests, appropriately so, that there is nothing to prevent the use of collected information to be used for other purposes. This seems particularly troubling, because these ALPR systems collect travel information on everyone using the highway, including non-suspects.
To further the potential threat the ALPR system poses to