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License Plate Tracking for the Average Citizen 340

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the i-spy-with-my-many-eyes dept.
Wired News is reporting that big-brother license plate tracking systems may soon be available to the average citizen. Privacy advocates, however, worry that personal information and associated movement could be used inappropriately by marketing companies. From the article: "Bucholz, who designed some of the first mobile license plate reading, or LPR, equipment, gave a presentation at the 2006 National Institute of Justice conference here last week laying out a vision of the future in which LPR does everything from helping insurance companies find missing cars to letting retail chains chart customer migrations. It could also let a nosy citizen with enough cash find out if the mayor is having an affair, he says."
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License Plate Tracking for the Average Citizen

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  • by IntelliAdmin (941633) * on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:23PM (#15777140) Homepage
    Wow. This is really big brother. Essentially they put these on top of cop cars an the thing just starts searching 360 for license plates and drops them in the system. The trick would be to have enough police cars fitted with them to give back good data. Also it would not help track the car if it were in someone's garage.

    Good Excerpt from the article:

    LPR cameras, which are usually around the size of a can of tomato sauce, can be mounted on police cruisers and powered by cigarette lighters. As the car moves, the camera bounces infrared light off other vehicles' license plates. The camera reads the plates and feeds them to a laptop in real time, where information from an FBI or local database can tell an officer if the car is hot. Some systems can read up to 60 plates per second, and they work at highway speeds and acute angles.

    Free Windows Admin Tools [intelliadmin.com]
    • by Jordan Catalano (915885) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:34PM (#15777248) Homepage
      In other news, sales of IR-blocking plastic films skyrocket.

      Buy one, get a tin-foil hat free.
    • I believe that in England they have spread these things everywhere there is a traffic light. The idea is to make sure that people pay local road use taxes and obey traffic rules, such as speed limits and traffic lights.
    • I cannot wait for this information to be easy and cheap to obtain. Imagine how much better GPS navigation systems would be if they always had real time data of traffic patterns, even if you live in a small midwestern town.

      Everyone seams to complain about information like this being used for marketing reasons, but I for one think that is probably the best use for it. I like the idea of marketing companies actually targeting me with things I may want, instead of crap I would never use because they do not ha
      • >Imagine how much better GPS navigation systems would be if they always had real time data of traffic patterns
        I would like to have just a local record of cars I encounter daily. Just a thats the bus that turns right in 200 feet, not the one that stops at every stop in the upcoming no passing zone. Also thats the car that completely stops before making a left turn...
        Just a few too many vehicles to remember or look up in a list while moving.
      • I agree (Score:4, Insightful)

        by x2A (858210) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:13PM (#15777591)
        Without marketing information, we blanket-market... that is, put flyers/posters, web banners, use pay-per-clicks etc, *everywhere*. It's a gamble, and most people who see the ads aren't going to be interested in them, but it's all you can do.

        However, with better marketing information, we cut out all the places we know people aren't going to be interested. The result: less pointless adverts everywhere.

        I wouldn't get car insurance circulars through my door, millions of pizza delivery ads, or loads v14gr4 spam, -if only- they knew I wasn't interested in them.

        Proper marketing information helps *all parties involved*. Unfortunately so many people have a deluded sense of grandure and think "omg they're watching *me*" like there's someone with a telescope watching and giggling everytime you fart. No company has that much time! It's usually done statistically.

      • It's been done:
        http://www.trafficmaster.co.uk/page.cfm?key=traffi cproducts [trafficmaster.co.uk]

        (never used their products, bought their stock or worked for them, but I've driven past their cameras plenty of times).
      • by CreatureComfort (741652) * on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:36PM (#15777774)

        Yeah, this is great. Now I'll be able to track down the information on that little mf'r that cut me off on the freeway this morning and key his car. Hey, and how about that hot blonde number I saw at the red light? I'm sure she wouldn't mind me showing up at her home or job and hitting on her. And if she turns me down, well, I know where she lives. I know, let's reverse this and make it real time! Then I can track where the owners of a house are while I "browse" through their belongings, and get warning when they get within 5 miles.

        Isn't this fun? I bet I could come up with great uses for this tech all day long.

        • by SydShamino (547793) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:16PM (#15778217)
          The following is SARCASTIC JEST meant to show how this can be abused:

          "Dude, I'm just gonna wire this up outside of the local adult video store, and post a real-time list of people who visit, with their name and address. I could probably make this a for-profit service, where folks sign up their spouses' tags and I message them when they visit. Or I can link it to public official records, and snap a photo or video if a politician's car shows up."
      • any information we are able to gain from their program usage only helps us give them a better product.

        You are incorrect. It helps you gain a greater profit, which is not reinvested in the product.
        • any information we are able to gain from their program usage only helps us give them a better product.

          You are incorrect. It helps you gain a greater profit, which is not reinvested in the product.


          Actually you are incorrect. I was not just talking about greater profit, I am talking about actual features added. By knowing what parts of the program people use the most, we can find what areas to spend the most development time on. Instead of just listening to the loudest complainers, we can help all of our c
    • We'd be sitting here marvelling at their innovation and wondering how we ever lived without it.
    • Police already do that on their own - when they are just driving around, they do plate searches on vehicles that are doing something suspicious, look suspicious, are driving late at night, racial profiling, etc. For whatever reason they want, basically. They can't pull you over without you doing something illegal, however, so unless your plate has something illegal associated with it, it's the same as ever.

      I imagine this automated system is more intended to be an aid to the police officer rather than a comp
      • They just drive around doing their normal rigamarole, and then the little beeper goes off and says "See that car up there? It was reported stolen this morning".

        Um, then what? The police get to just confiscate your car because some "magic box" says so?
    • by dr_dank (472072) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:17PM (#15777627) Homepage Journal
      LPR cameras, which are usually around the size of a can of tomato sauce, can be mounted on police cruisers and powered by cigarette lighters

      With a mental image of a cop wielding a jar of Ragu while his partner shovels in Bic lighters to keep it going, I have hard time taking this seriously.
    • License plate reading has been relatively possible for a long time - the big innovation here is that it's a mobile reader you can use from a moving car as opposed to a fixed-location mounted reader. Back in the mid 90s, San Francisco was going to be tearing down a highway for earthquake repair, and wanted to prevent traffic problems. So they scanned all the license plates of the cars that took the highway, looked up the owners' addresses, and sent them all postcards saying "We'll be closing the highway s
    • Oh, so you mean I just need to put an IR filter over my tag? Since we can't SEE IR with our eyes, we just have a high-pass light filter on our tags such that police can view them with their eyes, but not this pesky tomato-suace spy cam. 1.) Post SCARY article about possible big brother tracking you everywhere 2.) Market ir filters for tags... 3.) Charge 4x market value to /.TFHC (slashdot tin foil hats club) 4.) Profit~!!!!
    • by stienman (51024) <adavis@u[ ]ics.com ['bas' in gap]> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:45PM (#15777860) Homepage Journal
      This is, technically, big brother - it is the technology to make this process cheaper (the process is already possible and available to anyone - just stand on a corner and collect information).

      There is no big reason to fear this any more than there is reason to fear the fact that the phone company has a record of every phone call you've ever made. They have, undoubtedly, used that information internally in research projects to form network diagrams and could very well do the 6-degrees game if they felt so inclined.

      I can see how it might be profitable to know where I've been, and where and when I might not be at home/work/etc. This will certainly cause me to think more about personal security. But it won't shed light on any activities that I don't want people to know about.

      In small towns everyone knew about everyone else, and still kept quiet and were civil - within reason - because they all had to live together. I think this notion of "public privacy" where one should be able to go to the store without anyone knowing is a relatively new desire, and quite frankly many, if not most, fears of losing it are overblown.

      But think about the possibilities if this technology - I'll call this "public neutrality" where I, as an endpoint user of the public space am not restricted from what I can and cannot record and analyze.

      I've been thinking about this technology for some time. What I'd like to have is a HUD, this license plate reader, and an internet connection. Then we simply need to develop CML - car markup language.

      Above every car messages about that car from other drivers are displayed, not unlike photo tags.
      Litterer
      Doesn't signal
      Has gun
      Tailgater
      Cell phoner stoner
      Plain stupid
      etc.
      Then we can do the same with facial recognition systems.

      Use GPS, a 3 axis magnetometer, and a 3 axis accelerometer and you can mark up buildings and other physically stationary objects.

      Then - and this is the next cool bit - you build all this into a flashlight. But the flashlight is actually a miniature handheld projecter. You can actually shine it around without wearing a HUD and it'll paint the tags on whatever you're pointing at for everyone else to see. You could print the "loser" on someone's forehead.

      Of course, I've just described several patentable ideas. They are now public domain, assuming they have not yet been applied for. So go out and make them already!

      In the rare chance that someone needs to use this as prior art in 10-20 years, contact me at http://ubasics.com [ubasics.com]. If you want me to build them, contact me sooner.

      And if someone is curious about where my car is or has been for the last while, no need to spend thousands of dollars on cameras, just check out my tracking system [ubasics.com]. (please note that it is active only during testing periods. Go back a few thousand points and you'll find my trip to Georgia and Alabama. Let me know if you can determine which of my relatives I visited and how I'm related - that would be interesting detective work.)

      -Adam
  • Stalkers' Boon (Score:4, Insightful)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:26PM (#15777166) Homepage
    And for stalkers out there, make it easy to establish a victims common route. I can't see how finding a stolen car here and there could possibly outweigh the negative implications of this technology.
    • And it gets worse. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:34PM (#15777249)
      All it would take is for someone to start offering info on license plates for price. Buy a couple of these and just cruise around, collecting plates and GPS coordinates (with a date/time stamp).

      See a cute girl in a bar? Just get her plate number when she leaves. The cough up the cash and you can find where her car is normally seen. Like where she lives and where she works.

      You know, I'd rather take my chances that my car won't be recovered (most of them are stolen for "joy rides" anyway and the most of the rest are chopped) or that someone without insurance will crash into me.

      And yes, once the technology is available, SOMEONE will sell the info it gathers.
    • Err, you do realise these aren't GPS devices, right? They take pictures and do a kinda OCR on it. The only way you could do that, is by spreading these devices around enough, and linking them all together using a series of tubes, and feeding it into a database. So, to establish somebody's route, you'd need one of these devices at each section along their route to begin with.

      Far easier to put a tracker on their car. *cough* I've heard.


      • To use a too tired cliche:

        1) Offer subscription service to businesses to scan customer license plates for "loyalty" rewards program.
        2) Tie all cameras installed back to a central database.
        3) With enough businesses paying you to collect the data, you can now track the movements of a significant chunk of people.
        4) Start selling tracking information to anyone who is willing to pay.

        So much profit involved in almost every step, that I can't imagine no one will actually do it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:26PM (#15777168)
    Your license plate number is currently being broadcast TO THE WORLD!

    Punch the monkey to find out how to protect yourself.
  • Neat trick (Score:5, Funny)

    by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:27PM (#15777175) Homepage
    I had no idea LPR had such capabilities. Let's see HP JetDirect do this!

    Now if only someone can code an extension that will tell me where I left my car keys...
    • Now if only someone can code an extension that will tell me where I left my car keys...

      cat coffeetable.txt | grep car_keys

  • by kwerle (39371) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:29PM (#15777202) Homepage Journal
    As you (or the vehicle licensed to you) move though public places, your movements may be noted. That's all there is to it.

    Nothing to see here. Move along.
    • ...so you drive around with your name, SSN, home address, and phone number written on your car?
      • ...so you drive around with your name, SSN, home address, and phone number written on your car?

        No, but my vehicle happens to be registered to me. My driver's license lists my home address. My vehicle is also often parked at my home address (do the math). My telephone number is available in (reverse lookup as well) the yellow pages.

        But that has nothing to do with this technology. This just let's people capture your license plate. So what's your point?
    • As you (or the vehicle licensed to you) move though public places, your movements may be noted. That's all there is to it.

      And if there were someone hanging out in a public place, making notes of what vehicles he sees, that would be one thing. Someone would be sure to call the cops to report a "possible terrorist" who is casing the place.

      But with this technology, someone can record the plate numbers without his actions being noticed.

      And once you remove the possiblity of the surveillance being observed, you o

  • I see this moreso being used by places like McDonalds. They could track who buys what when going through the drive thru. Then they could see you ordering and using your past history target you on foods you've ordered before and may be more likely to order again.
    • And when McDonalds decides to sell my information to the local health clubs, i can get call/emails/letters asking if I enjoyed my Big Mac last Tuesday and did I know I can work off those calories at Bob's gym.

      I think if I found out a place was using it, I would drive right by.
      • Hmm, a technology that helps goods and services I may need/want find me better. Yea this is horrible we must get rid of it.

        Remember you get such huge piles of crapp advertisement because nobody knows what you may want so they have to send you everything. At least this way advertising may be of things you actually are interested in.

  • by A nonymous Coward (7548) * on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:32PM (#15777231)
    I love this kind of stuff. Right now, power to snoop is in the hands of the rich and powerful. If the mayor of Dallas gets a bug up his butt about a neighbor he doesn't like, or a competing politician bothers him enough, he has a lot more resources at his control than the neighbor or opponent. But when things like this become available to the average joe, there's will be a lot more people interested in where the mayor's car goes than the other way round.

    Same with public cameras. Once we get cameras all over the place, whether controlled by private citizens, or whether public cameras which everyone can see instead of just the cops, a lot more ordinary joes will be observing the rich and powerful than vice versa.

    The Colt revolver was the great equalizer of the 1800s, making the average person just as deadly as those who had the time to practice swordsmanship. Computer cameras like these license plate readers and public webcams will be the great equalizer of the 2000s. I relish the equalization of power these will bring.
    • The Colt revolver was the great equalizer of the 1800s, making the average person just as deadly as those who had the time to practice swordsmanship. Computer cameras like these license plate readers and public webcams will be the great equalizer of the 2000s. I relish the equalization of power these will bring.
      There's this voice nagging me in the back of my head about some "cold war"...
    • Sorry, but you're wrong. It will be illegal for the average citizen to track government officals like this. National security and all. Read Orwell to see what a survelance society is like.
    • There's no great equalizer. Rich people will simply mount a license-plate sized LCD screen and offer an ever-changing plate number to bamboozle you. Poor people will be able to afford neither the LCD screen nor the tracker. In fact, they'll probably have to pay-per-view for the license on the content of the rich guy's LCDplate, the poor sods.
    • The Colt revolver was the great equalizer of the 1800s, making the average person just as deadly as those who had the time to practice swordsmanship. Computer cameras like these license plate readers and public webcams will be the great equalizer of the 2000s. I relish the equalization of power these will bring.


      'course, it's mostly illegal to have a handgun nowadays.
      • Most places require a permit to carry a gun concealed, but only a couple
        of states require a permit to own one (CA, NY, any others?).
        • You don't need a permit persé in CA, but you have to pass a basic safety test, which at the moment isn't at all tough. Still irks me though =-(

          I'm surprised there hasn't been more of an effort to make those tests harder in order to reduce legal gun ownership...
    • >But when things like this become available to the average joe,
      >there's will be a lot more people interested in where the mayor's
      >car goes than the other way round.

      I'm sure the people in power will make sure that certain license plates are exempted from being displayed.

      Steve
      • David Brin's book "The Transparent Society" (1998, online excerpts [davidbrin.com]) talks about the effects of cheap computing/camera/database technology on privacy. It's a pre-9/11/2001 look at what societies and governments can do with Moore's Law kicking technology. A major point was that either society forces the government to be open about what it's doing and allow the public to watch it, or else the government will use all the same technology _without_ anybody watching it. Now, of course, we've got the Bush Admin
    • The Colt revolver was the great equalizer of the 1800s, making the average person just as deadly as those who had the time to practice swordsmanship.


      "Fear no man, no matter what his size. Just call on me, in time of need, and I will equalize." - ~1870s ad for the Colt Peacemaker

  • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:34PM (#15777250)
    > "Bucholz, who designed some of the first mobile license plate reading, or LPR, equipment, gave a presentation at the 2006 National Institute of Justice conference here last week laying out a vision of the future in which LPR does everything from helping insurance companies find missing cars to letting retail chains chart customer migrations. It could also let a nosy citizen with enough cash find out if the mayor is having an affair, he says."

    CFO: You dumbass! The mayor is the guy who signs the check! You just terrified our entire customer base!
    Bucholz: ...b-but I said "with enough cash". It's not like just any citizen could use i-
    CFO: NO! Remember your mantra. "Citizen is to sheep as Mayor is to farmer." Nothing more. Nothing less. Go now. Do not speak to me again until you've meditated upon your mantra for another week.

  • I must admit I didn't RTA, but couldn't this system be defeated by louvres? Particularly those made of tin foil?

    Or, if you don't want to get too technical, how about some dirt?
    • Anything that reduced the iR reflection of the plate would work. Even better than louvres or drit, which may be illegal, or atleast get you pulled over, a non-tinted polorized coating may work. Invisible to the naked eye, but obscures the characters for the camera.

      Just another sample of our government spending millions for a tool that can be avoided for a $5 made in China piece of plastic.

      -Rick
  • Five years ago, I was working for an insurance company. One of my more boring jobs was entering registration plates / number plates as they're called here, into a massive database that was to be shared among all the insurance companies, the police, and the government agencies. It contained the VIN (Vehicle Identity Number - engraved on the chassis and engine I believe), the number plate, make, model and colour.

    Not quite public information, but I remember doing a few searches on friends and relatives ca
  • by swid27 (869237) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:41PM (#15777316) Homepage
    Until very recently (5-7 years ago), companies in rural areas of the U.S. (well, in rural Nebraska, at least) would give away books that contained:
    • Two maps of the county: one showing the ownership of land parcels, the other showed residences (with the names of the current occupants)
    • A complete listing of license plates in that county.
    The license plate listing section of theses books went away because of privacy concerns. I guess that didn't last very long...
    • Two maps of the county: one showing the ownership of land parcels

      Those are typically called "plat books." As you imply, you can still get them, but they're not usually free anymore. Your local public library probably has a current one for your county. Here in the big (ha!) city, they're not terribly useful because they don't usually show the owners of individual lots, just the names of housing developments.

      But they've become irrelevant in a lot of places anyway. See, for example, this website [kcgov.com] or this [macoggis.com]

    • Yep. "Privacy" is a rather modern invention. Privacy in a small town where everyone knows who you are and what you're doing? Hardly! Or how about in a tribal culture?

      I'm inclined to think that if "everyone" has access to the comings and goings of people, it ceases to be news, and just returns us all to "one big happy neighborhood". It's if only the government has the access that I start worring about Big Brother.

      Geoff
  • Captcha (Score:4, Funny)

    by bobthemuse (574400) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:41PM (#15777317)
    Sweet.... I wonder if I can have my plate # pressed similar to a captcha [wikipedia.org]. Let them scan all they want....
  • Or if.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Itninja (937614) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:44PM (#15777338) Homepage
    "The next step is connecting the technology to databases that will tell cops whether a sexual offender has failed to register in the state or is loitering too close to a school, or whether a driver has an outstanding warrant. It could also snag you if you're uninsured, if your license expired last week or even if your library books are overdue."

    ...or if members of your church started going to the local mosque. Or if your employees started shopping at the competition. Or if a pastor spent a little too time consoling the local widows....
  • From the article:
    Some systems can read up to 60 plates per second, and they work at highway speeds and acute angles.

    The next step is connecting the technology to databases that will tell cops whether a sexual offender has failed to register in the state or is loitering too close to a school, or whether a driver has an outstanding warrant. It could also snag you if you're uninsured, if your license expired last week or even if your library books are overdue.


    Ok, I don't have a problem with this being used to
    • What if someone sat in the back of the parking lot of your local adult entertainment company and started tracking the regular customers? What if someone set up a camera in the parking lot of a planned parenthood facility?

      My concern is (slightly) less about the government using this technology to identify cars for criminal investigation/prosicution (the sex offender's car in front of a school for example). But what about social groups that have strong opinions and motivation that do not directly corellate to
  • by TheGreatDonkey (779189) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:46PM (#15777350)
    License plate information is already used inappropriately by police officers. This past weekend, 3 Boston Police officers were arrested on a string of charges. One of them includes, "In conversations with his associates, he was proud of his ability to spot easy marks for identity theft: He ran the license plate numbers of expensive cars he encountered in routine traffic stops through police systems to get to the owners' private information. With the help of a worker at a local bank, he picked off those with the best credit ratings." (Article found at http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/art icles/2006/07/22/pulidos_club_offered_sex_drugs_pr osecutors_say/ [boston.com]).

    I can't see this information becoming more easily accessible the least bit comforting or reassuring.
    • He ran the license plate numbers of expensive cars he encountered in routine traffic stops through police systems to get to the owners' private information. With the help of a worker at a local bank, he picked off those with the best credit ratings.

      Now wait a minute. There are two separate issues here.

      The police officer has every right to run cars' license plates through the police systems and pull up the owners' private information, including names, addresses, ages, and driving/criminal records. However, t

  • We have standard plates and conservation plates otherwise known as moose plates because they have a picture of a moose. Some of the cost of them goes towards conservation programs.

    I've learnt that you can have exactly the number on a standard and a moose plate, different cars, different owners. Is that normal in other states? I always thought that the state and number was enough for uniqueness. Obviously not in NH.
  • On the plus side, this might just encourage more people to take public transit. All this system would see would be your car going back and forth between your home (if you don't have a garage) and the closest park and ride station. Or, if you're close enough, you could just take the bus into the main arteries of the transit system.

    Incidentally, this would be how criminals would stay off the radar.
  • WALK for short distances! Or use public transportation, and in the meanwhile, keep your car in your garage. The problem in this country is that you have to fight for your privacy, if you want any privacy at all you have to become paranoid.
    If people started walking, using bicycles, rollerblades or any other form of transportation besides cars, then there would be a massive problem for the marketing people: their data wouldn't hold up, and stalkers would find other ways anyway. Stalkers are not the problem, m
  • The systems, which cost around $25,000 and are made by G2 Tactics, Civica, AutoVu and Remington Elsag Law Enforcement Systems, among others, have been sold mostly to major police departments around the country.

    So where is the open source software that does the license plate tracking with commodity hardware? Surely we can beat $25,000 and put this in the hands of nerds everywhere, right?

    When the DC sniper was running around killing 10 people in 2002, it crossed my mind that tech like this could have help

    • I don't think that would have worked to catch the sniper. The shootings were spread over a very wide area. You have to hope that the killer uses highways or other major roads within a short time of the shootings, you'd have to deal with false positives, etc.
      • map of the shootings [wikimedia.org] if you are curious.

        Of course there might have been false positives, but keep in mind police were looking for "a white van" instead of the blue Chevrolet Caprice that was used in the shootings. (Fun exercise: next time you are in a major metro, count the number of white vans.) I bet a list of cars in vicinity of 2 shootings would be in single digits. Just check 'em all out.

  • It's obviously illegal to fit a fake license plate to your car, but what about shopping carts, walls, pets etc.?

    Could I "frame" the mayor with going to a strip club if I wear a t-shirt with his license plate number?
  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:00PM (#15777466)
    I can't wait until someone sets up a bounty system for this. Essentially people would buy and mount one of these on their cars and drive around "interesting" areas. License plates would be tracked and sent to a central database with a GPS and time stamp. You could then purchase tracking information for certain license plates, with a portion of the proceeds going back to the original owner.

    Essentially you'd end up with "bounty hunters" cruising bad parts of town looking for stolen vehicles and the like. On the other end, you'd have people driving around L.A. and New York, trying to figure out which celebrity is staying and whose home for the night.

    Think of it as Little Brother.
  • IR Reflector (Score:2, Interesting)

    by crnbrdeater (861451)
    I have seen IR polymer films with the ability to reflect IR wave lenghts but allow the visible spectrum to pass through mostly unobstructed. A piece of this stuff could be easily trimmed to fit in your plate frame. Sounds like it would render your plate invisible to this reader.
  • I'm not worried yet. If they tried to run even just 20 plates a minute for every patrol car out there, most state's network and query servers would colapse into a molten ruin.
    • You don't think like an architect. You are assuming that the police car "sees" a plate, sends it to a centralized server, server processes and stores in a db. Me? I'd design it so that each police car periodically gets updates on "items of interest". It would not be a problem to download the "top 1000" license plates, even with a slow connection.

      When an item of interest is deiscovered on the road, it could then go to a centralized database (either real time, or wait till end of shift to download depending o
  • Already Here? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AugustZephyr (989775)
    Isn't this technology all over the place in the form of red light and speed zone cameras? It was just a matter of time until they put these units in the actual police cruisers. Anyways, its not like they cant already see the picture of a postage stamp on the sidewalk from spy satelites.
  • Make the information available to everyone, with maybe a small charge to deter massive overuse. Also, associate with each license plate number a list of people who searched specifically for that plate. So, not only can anyone track me, but I can also see who is tracking me. Of course, this would require some form of ID-verified account creation.

    Maybe even include an option to opt-out of (or opt-in to) tracking. If you opt out of being tracked, you can't track anyone else. If you want to track someone else

  • David Brin (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dagr8tim (866860)
    David Brin [davidbrin.com] did a very wonderful essay called "The Transparent Society [wikipedia.org]". Where basically he argued that all camera's like stop light camera's, street corner camera's, and all of this big brother stuff should be open to the public to view. His idea was "Who Watches the Watchers" in order to keep government honest. Not to mention the theory that more people watching technically means more chance to be caught doing something wrong which increases the deterrent factor. Ofcourse I know if a criminal has thier
    • Where basically he argued that all camera's like stop light camera's, street corner camera's, and all of this big brother stuff ...
      That'll be US$3000 for apostrophe misuse, at US$1000 per incident.
  • I got rid of my car in 1998 and have gotten by well without. I use a bike or rollerblades or public transit. The transit system here uses a paper pass system; no swiping in a reader. The pass does not show a name and can be bought with cash.

    The few times I need a car I rent one. Sure, the credit card company knows that I rented a car. The car rental company probably has GPS for all I know, but I am most likely going to a state park for camping for with I have made a reservation on a government computer besi
  • Great for tracking that person that cuts you off on the freeway so you can find out exactly where they park.
    Then, you can write up a polite note about how they should consider improving their driving skills.
  • Easy defeat? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hotspotbloc (767418) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:32PM (#15777734) Homepage Journal
    Couldn't you just set up a few IR LEDs around the plate (or one big one drilled into the center of the plate) to flood out the picture? I'm guessing these systems use a camera that normally records in the IR spectrum by default. It can't be that easy but ...
    • Re:Easy defeat? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Cheeze (12756) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:08PM (#15778138) Homepage
      they have this spray that you can buy that eliminates the reflective qualities of the plate, making your numbers/letters near invisible.

      there's another one that makes it all reflective, so a camera flash will be blinded out.
      • Hair spray can do the same thing. You also could run the plate through a quick etching dip. Unfortunataly most states have laws about altering plates. I suspect a couple of nasty IR LEDs attached near the regular license lights might be enough to mess up a camera without running afoul of the law.
  • Frankly, nobody has any business surveilling the whereabouts of my car with such an automated system. I don't mind if a physical person can look up my plate in a database, but when technology has advanced to the point where I can be virtually tailed everywhere I go, its time to put and end to that. Lets abolish license plates and regain a little privacy!

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