These Companies Want Your Travel Records

Written By Ryan Stancil

Posted June 17, 2014

Another day, another story about corporations intruding on the privacy of the people.

A legal battle over surveillance is currently being fought in an Arkansas courtroom, and the basic argument boils down to this…

The state says that information related to the license plates of its citizens cannot be collected for private use and companies that make license plate readers have a problem with that.

These license plate readers are a relatively new technology that can scan the license plate on a car to see if it’s stolen, or is tied to someone who has active warrants or is a suspect in a crime. These readers can reportedly grab the information of 60 plates per second and record pieces of data like the time, date, and location of the scanned vehicle.

But there’s no real oversight, so the information can be retained for as long as the agency doing the collecting sees fit.

And that doesn’t sit well with the state of Arkansas.

Privacy vs. Free Enterprise

To combat the practice of collecting license plate data, the state introduced Act 1491, which took effect earlier this year and banned the private collecting of the information generated by these plate readers.

To be clear, police departments are still allowed to use the devices, but the information they gather can’t be stored like it has been.

The law is currently being jointly opposed by two companies, Digital Recognition Network and Vigilant Systems, who claim their right to free speech is being violated.

In case you’ve forgotten, corporations are people, after all. People who need their products to be attractive to as many potential buyers as possible.

When speaking to Ars Technica about the matter, Arkansas attorney general spokesman Aaron Sadler had this to say:

“Our law is crafted carefully to protect both the privacy concerns of Arkansans and legitimate law enforcement purposes…”

“We are prepared to defend the law.”

It remains to be seen how this case will develop, but the slippery slope it could lead to is clear as day.

Sure, license plate readers are mostly used for law enforcement purposes now, but they’ve also been reportedly used by insurance firms and repossession companies.

And while the use of these readers and the process for storing information varies on a state-by-state basis now, it’s not hard to imagine a time when they’re more widespread and uniform because, you know, terrorists.

I guess the powers-that-be need some way to get around finding people who may not always have a cell phone on them.

Keep your eyes open,

Ryan Stancil