“[Automated license plate readers (ALPR)] are a combination of high-speed cameras and optical character recognition technology that can identify license plates and turn them into machine-readable text,” reports the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). “What makes ALPR so powerful is that drivers are required by law to install license plates on their vehicles. In essence, our license plates have become tracking beacons. After the plate data is collected, the ALPR systems upload the information to a central a database along with the time, date, and GPS coordinates. Cops can search these databases to see where drivers have traveled or to identify vehicles that visited certain locations. Police can also add license plates under suspicion to ‘hot lists,’ allowing for real-time alerts when a vehicle is spotted by an ALPR network.”
All this sounds innocuous. One would think the technology is being used only for law enforcement purposes. If you believe that, you probably are wrong. However, proof is difficult to find as the law enforcement agencies usually are reluctant to publicize their actions. We also can guess that law enforcement agencies probably are not the biggest source of such information sharing. Instead, suspicion exists that the manufacturers of the automated license plate readers collect, save, and possibly share far more information about your movements than does any single law enforcement agency, all without public oversight.