License Plate Scanners Track Drivers' Whereabouts

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Police license plate readers are becoming widely criticized after a California resident revealed the amount of times his car was tracked during a period of three years.

Michael Katz-Lacabe asked the city of San Leandro, Calif., for records of every time scanners had photographed his car. He found that the small device installed on the outside of police cars tracked him on 112 occasions since 2009, including one photo which shows him and his daughters stepping out of his car in their driveway.

It was that photo that shocked him the most, making him "frightened and concerned about the magnitude of police surveillance and data collection."

On average, the patrol car tracked his car once a week, photographing the car and license pate and documenting the time and location.

Many police agencies in California are taking part in the tracking method, which collects millions of records on drivers and gives them to intelligence fusion centers. 

In 2012, the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center signed a $340,000 agreement with firm Palantir to develop a database of license plate records. 

It is not known how much data they have collected or how involved Palantir is with the method, but many are worried that the government is wrongly collecting data from its citizens.

Others support the tracking devices as they help clamp down on stolen vehicles.

"We found 10 stolen vehicles on the first weekend in 2005 with our antitheft teams," said Sid Heal, a retired commander at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "I had a hit within 45 minutes."

Heal said before having the devices, he would have to call license plates into dispatchers and wait for them to identify the car as stolen. But the plate readers are "lightning fast in comparison" and allow them to scan 1,200 plates an hour.

Sources: AOL, CIR