U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has signed a contract with Vigilant Solutions to gain access to over 2 billion license plate photos. Each picture includes the creation time, date, and, GPS location, which gives the government agency the ability to track people. According to ICE, it intends to use this massive trove of data for tracking suspects in criminal investigations and for finding "priority aliens to facilitate their interdiction and removal," The Verge reports citing an official privacy assessment.
Agents will be able to search the database to find any hits for a specific license plate, and they'll be able to set up an alert for any future sighting of a specific plate. This information lets agents know the travel history of a target vehicle, including letting them identify common places that a person goes. Plus, the data gives a good idea of where a suspect currently is.
ICE will not contribute photos to Vigilant Solutions' database. However, the law enforcement agency will have access to the growing collection of images that will come sources like license plate readers and police cars' cameras. According to The Verge, Vigilant's database grows by 100 million images a month.
Wider government acceptance of license plate scanning raises privacy concerns because of fear of abuse of such a system. The cameras take a needle-in-a-haystack approach by collecting data about every car on the road. The vast majority of these drivers are doing nothing wrong, but an unscrupulous agent could track an innocent person easily.
This case also raises the issue of how futuristic technology addresses driving. In another example, documents from Wikileaks alleged that the Central Intelligence Agency had researched methods of hacking the Blackberry QNX automotive software.
Source: The Verge