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Posts Tagged ‘Government Intrusion’

Automatic License Plate Reader Technology

Automatic License Plate Reader Technology

Earlier today I received a notice from the Portland Police Bureau about their new patrol cars and the Police technology that will be on display for the general public.  It’s a “show-and-tell” exercise for the media.

The demonstration includes the latest in Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) technology.

Yeah, those quiet mass tracking devices that log license plates and perform driver surveillance!  Cruiser-mounted cameras can scan about 700 license plates an hour.  We’re starting to get a clear picture of the technology deployed for mass routine location tracking and surveillance.

Automatic license plate readers are the most widespread location tracking technology available to law enforcement. Mounted on patrol cars or stationary objects like bridges, they snap photos of every passing car, and motorcycle recording their plate numbers, times, and locations.

At first the captured plate data was used just to check against lists of motorcycles or cars law enforcement hoped to locate for various reasons (to act on arrest warrants, find stolen vehicles, etc.). Increasingly, however, all of this data is being fed into massive databases that contain the location information of many millions of innocent Americans stretching back for months or even years.  In addition, private companies are also using license plate readers and sharing the information they collect with police with little or no oversight or privacy protections.

I’m okay with law enforcement’s use of these systems to take pictures of plates to identify people who are driving stolen cars or are subject to an arrest warrant.  The technology makes it possible to check plates against “hot lists” of vehicles that are of interest to law enforcement. This can be done almost instantaneously and if the plates generate a “hit” I can understand the need to store the data for investigative purposes.

But, how long should the plate data be retained?

Automatic license plate readers have the potential to create permanent records of virtually everywhere any of us has driven.  It could radically transform the consequences of leaving home to pursue private life, and opening up many opportunities for abuse.

In Portland, Or., the data retention rules are a minimum of 30 days to a maximum of 4-years.  More information is HERE.  Like many, I don’t like this growing trend where the government is increasingly using new technology to collect information about American citizens, all the time, and is storing it forever — providing a complete record of citizens’ lives for the government to access at will.

Should you care?   Yes.  In New York City, for instance, police officers have reportedly driven unmarked vehicles equipped with license plate readers around local mosques in order to record each attendee.

What if entire motorcycle clubs/communities are targeted based on their associational makeup?

It’s a core principle that in the United States of America, the government does not invade its citizens’ privacy and store information about their innocent activities just in case they do something wrong.

Photo courtesy of firstcoastnews.com

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog
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Digging Through Saddlebags

Digging Through Saddlebags

Yeah, it may well happen if you come across a motorcycle-only checkpoint.

I’ve written previously about how motorcycle safety outweighs individual liberty as state and local governments have begun to implement motorcycle-only checkpoints that unfairly target motorcyclists for inspection by law enforcement officers.

Specifically it’s called the “Motorcycle Law Enforcement Demonstration Grant” (DTNH22-10-R-00386) and the motorcycle-only checkpoints are funded by grants given out by the federal government, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  That’s correct.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is offering federal funds to expand the practice of creating motorcycle-only checkpoints by law enforcement agencies.

Initially started in New York State, the process involves setting-up checkpoints where only motorcycles are pulled over. Law enforcement officers will check for U.S. DOT-compliant helmets, legal exhaust systems, and compliance with licensing, registration and inspection regulations.  And they may decide to dig through your saddlebags!

What can you do?

Petition-PhotoSign this petition which calls for the cessation of the NHTSA’s direct and indirect funding of the motorcycle-only checkpoints through its grants and other measures, and asks that the laws for vehicle conformity and passenger safety be applied equally to motorcycles and automobiles alike.

Why This Petition Site?  The White House’s “We the People” website is the only one that sends a message directly to the president.  Once 25,000 signatures are reach, the petition is put in front of President Barack Obama, where he has to officially respond to the petition, which could include directing the NHTSA from funding motorcycle-only checkpoints.

I Live In A State With-Out Motorcycle-Only Check Points, Why Should I Bother To Sign?  Because there are a large number of motorcyclists in the U.S., yet overall our passion is shared by only a small portion of the population. This makes it relatively easy for laws, and those who enforce those laws, to target motorcyclists unfairly.  The motorcycling community needs to come together, regardless of how this one issue affects you, in order to ensure that the basic rights of motorcyclists everywhere are assured.

This Won’t Change Anything, So I’m Not Going To Waste My Time.  You might be right, but putting the issue in front of The President of the U.S. might do something, and if nothing else, it shows that the motorcycle-riding community is an active participant in what occurs in Washington D.C. and in the local legislatures. Doing nothing truly means that nothing will change.

Crap, I Have To Register To Sign This.  Are You Kidding Me?  The White House’s “We the People” website is the only site that sends a message directly to the president, and if there are enough signatures, the president has to formally respond to the petition.

I Don’t Want The Government To Have My Email Address.  Ahh… right, like they don’t already know where you live…

Please take the time and consider signing the petition.

Photos courtesy of Baggers Magazine and The White House “We The People” website.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Discriminatory Motorcycle Checkpoint

The year was 1910 and the charter of the city (where I currently reside) empowered city officials to enforce disparate, and what now seems quaint-sounding regulations.  Here are a couple of examples:

“To prescribe the width of tires of all vehicles.”

“To regulate and prevent public criers, advertising notices, steam whistles, the ringing of bells and the playing of bands.”

It seems harmless enough, but jump ahead 100 years to 2010 and cash strapped states are now targeting motorcyclists.  Huh?

That’s correct.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is offering federal funds to expand the practice of creating motorcycle-only checkpoints by law enforcement agencies.  Specifically it’s called the “Motorcycle Law Enforcement Demonstration Grant” (DTNH22-10-R-00386).

Initially started in New York State, the process involves setting-up checkpoints where only motorcycles are pulled over. Law enforcement officers then check for U.S. DOT-compliant helmets, legal exhaust systems, and compliance with licensing, registration and inspection regulations. The NHTSA program would also collect information on high-motorcycle-crash-incident areas and citations would be issued for any violations discovered.  Law enforcement officials in New York have defended the program as a safety measure to decrease motorcycle crashes, injuries and fatalities – the extra public $$ is just a bonus –  yet there is no proof of its effectiveness.

But wait… there’s more.  The NHTSA is now seeking up to five other law enforcement agencies to participate in this practice and is offering from $70,000 to $350,000 in federal funding.  I wonder how long until one of the states in the northwest opts in?

Basically our freedom to ride is under attack because of Federally funded discriminatory motorcycle checkpoint stops that don’t require any probable cause other than riding a motorcycle!

What can you do?
As of July 2010, no NHTSA awards have been awarded, but you can contact your state senators and representatives and complain that the NHTSA is using our tax dollars to fund a program that targets bikers. Unlike Arizona where the law doesn’t specify a type of person, but “may” result in racial profiling, in this case the target is defined and profiling would be, in fact, it’s clearly a part of the program. It may be unconstitutional and at minimum is a waste of our tax dollars.

If you prefer the AMA has developed an online email/letter to Administrator Strickland urging him to suspend the grant program until profiling questions have been addressed.

Photo courtesy of NY Police.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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It’s disturbingly commonplace and pretty workaday stuff for law enforcement.

If you are an owner of one of the country’s 277 million cell phones, it’s possible that your cell-phone company retained records of where your device has been at all times.

Cell phones have tiny GPS devices embedded inside or because each phone call is routed through towers that can be used to pinpoint the phones’ location to within areas as small as a few hundred feet.

And as the government continues it’s relentless intrusion into the private lives of citizens, cell-phone tracking has become commonplace and among the more unsettling forms of government surveillance. The ease at which your location information can be accessed is a question posed by a Newsweek article, which outlines the various methods local law-enforcement agencies and the Justice Department can use to trace Americans’ cell phones–tracking that in some cases can be done in real time. According to the article, courts across the country routinely agree to police requests for cell phone location information.  The legality of such requests is somewhat murky and there is anecdotal evidence of abuse of the system, with requests that are clearly personal.

What if the Justice Department wants to track political protesters or motorcyclists at the Washington CoC Run?  Or how about track all the motorcycle enthusiasts who arrive at the state capital for “Black Thursday” in Olympia to protest unfavorable biker legislation?  Apparently, it may all be allowed.

It would seem the Orwellian day of Big Brother secretly following motorcyclists movements through the cell phone device in our pocket is here.  Currently, the records are obtained under what is known as “2703(d)” orders—a reference to an obscure provision of a federal law known as the Stored Communications Act—in which prosecutors only need to assert that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the records are “relevant” to an ongoing federal criminal investigation, a much lower standard than that needed for a search warrant.

When the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Enhancement Act of 1999 was passed, I don’t think they thought about law enforcement over reach or customer’ privacy information related to location-based services.  I encourage preservation of the Fourth Amendment and think it’s time that Congress clarify the terms under which location information may be released to law enforcement.

Until then, if you’re someone who does not wish to disclose their movements to the government then you’ll need not use a cellular telephone.

Photo courtesy of Apple.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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