Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Permanent Surveillance in Santa Cruz

Human Rights abuse in itty-bitty Santa Cruz [link].

"Santa Cruz Police to Add Cameras That Can Track Every Driver in the City; Some think the system which monitors every license plate on a road could be a '1984'-like invasion of privacy"
2013-09-11 by Brad Kava from "Santa Cruz Patch" []:
With little debate or discussion, the Santa Cruz City Council Tuesday approved the purchase of $38,000 of cameras that can photograph and keep indefinitely the license plates of every car entering or leaving the city.
Called Automated License Plate Readers, the technology has been controversial in other cities, with freedom advocates claiming it is a step toward a 1984 surveillance system. The ones proposed by local police are mobile and can be kept in an officer's car and set up when needed. They can read thousands of license plates per minute.
The money comes from a federal grant to help local agencies buy equipment. Police across the country have used them for cameras and other paramilitary equipment. The sheriff's department will share in the funds.
Santa Cruz Deputy Chief Steve Clark told the council the technology would greatly help in retrieving stolen cars, and could have helped in a number of unsolved cases, such as the disappearance of antique dealer Deanna Brooks, who went missing 13 months ago and has never been found.
He said it could have possibly helped in the shooting of a UCSC student who survived a gunshot wound to the head at a bus station last year and has remained unsolved.
The city will purchase eight mobile units that can track traffic at major entry points, Clark said. Milpitas has used similar technology.
At issue in some cities is the question of how the technology can be used. The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a 26,000 page report on the monitoring, calling it an invasion of privacy and raising poignant questions, none of which were asked by the city council.
For example, do police have a right to monitor and keep information on drivers not suspected of a crime?  Are the records public, and if so, could a citizen subpoena them, for example, in a divorce case to check on a cheating spouse? Can an insurance company get ahold of them to determine who was driving a car or how well they were driving?
Under what restrictions would the police use the information and for how long would they keep it?
The ACLU says of the "ALRP" technology on its homepage: "The documents paint a startling picture of a technology deployed with too few rules that is becoming a tool for mass routine location tracking and surveillance. License plate readers can serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose when they alert police to the location of a car associated with a criminal investigation. But such instances account for a tiny fraction of license plate scans, and too many police departments are storing millions of records about innocent drivers."
A report by the International Chiefs of Police Association listed some concerns about personal liberties and the readers: "Recording driving habits could implicate First Amendment concerns. Specifically, LPR systems have the ability to record vehicles' attendance at locations or events that, although lawful and public, may be considered private. For example, mobile LPR units could read and collect the license plate numbers of vehicles parked at addiction counseling meetings, doctors' offices, health clinics, or even staging areas for political protests."

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