ACLU Video: What The Government Could Do With That Location Data

John Glaser, February 20, 2014

It was reported this week that the Department of Homeland Security, the most conspicuous behemoth of all the national security state agencies, wants to impose “a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers.”

The Washington Post:

The national license-plate recognition database, which would draw data from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their paths, would help catch fugitive illegal immigrants, according to a DHS solicitation. But the database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and could be shared with other law enforcement agencies, raising concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized.

For a post-9/11 bureaucracy created in the name of fighting terrorist threats to “the homeland,” the license plate scheme seemed like a clear example of the sort of mission creep that besets every government program. The outrageous Orwellian nature of the plan, however, caused such a public uproar that officials came out and said this plan isn’t an official proposal…yet. So, cancel that!

Still, says Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “DHS may still be accessing national license plate data—collected by the private company Vigilant Solutions—on an ad hoc basis. According to documents obtained by the ACLU of Massachusetts, ICE agents and other branches of DHS have been tapping into Vigilant’s data sets for years.”

In any case, the point is that the government is working very hard to know more and more about you and respect your civil liberties less and less. The ACLU has posted a video that gives you an idea of the kind of encroachments on privacy that are in the works:

Here’s the ACLU’s corresponding message:

Law enforcement is taking advantage of outdated privacy laws to track Americans like never before. New technologies can record your every movement, revealing detailed information about how you choose to live your life. Without the right protections in place, the government can gain access to this information — and to your private life — with disturbing ease.

As long as it is turned on, your mobile phone registers its position with cell towers every few minutes, whether the phone is being used or not. Since mobile carriers are retaining location data on their customers, government officials can learn a tremendous amount of detailed personal information about you by accessing your location history from your cell phone company, ranging from which friends you’re seeing to where you go to the doctor to how often you go to church. The Justice Department and most local police forces can get months’ worth of this information, without you ever knowing — and often without a warrant from a judge.

4 Responses to “ACLU Video: What The Government Could Do With That Location Data”

  1. Create a government agency with a limited mission and a small (or not so small) budget and they will soon find ways and invent reasons to vastly expand both. It's kind of surprising that we don't still have an agency that regulates buggy whips, candle snuffers, and lamp lighters. Or maybe there is one, but it's kept secret for reasons of "national security."

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