As if deaf to the outcry from citizens about the all-encompassing surveillance tactics of the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security has announced that it is looking to partner with a civilian company who can build a system that will allow them to track individual cars anywhere in the country. The Washington Postpublished a document detailing what the DHS wants from their eventual contractor.
A bullet-pointed list explains how the DHS hopes to build a National License Plate Recognition database that could work in conjunction with local law enforcements assets already in place to track down anyone, anywhere, at any time.
Thanks to new technologies, police departments across the country are pairing with private companies and to collect as much data as they can about cars and their movements. A vehicle will drive along roadways, with scanners aimed at cars parked on the side of the road. DHS hopes to be able to access these systems, along with traffic cameras, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
According to Consumerist—who highlighted the specific language from the DHS document—the information will also be given to immigration officials to “assist in the location and arrest of absconders and criminal aliens.” A spokeswoman from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency tried to assuage privacy advocates’ concerns, telling Reuters that the data would be maintained by a private company and not the government. ICE could only access the data for “ongoing criminal investigations.”
Yet for those concerned about civil liberties, that may be like asking if they would rather stick their hands in a meat-grinder or a blast furnace. What troubles them about this is not who holds the data, but that by simply developing this system a person with access—legitimate or otherwise—could track anyone for any reason with ease.