Immigration and Customs Enforcement has reportedly finalized a contract that gives it access to a nationwide license plate recognition database, allowing the agency to see billions of license plate records and track them in real time.
Civil liberties groups expressed concern about the contract, which the immigration agency acknowledged to The Verge.
“Like most other law enforcement agencies, ICE uses information obtained from license plate readers as one tool in support of its investigations,” ICE spokesperson Dani Bennett told The Verge. “ICE is not seeking to build a license plate reader database, and will not collect nor contribute any data to a national public or private database through this contract.”
ICE partnered with Vigilant Solutions, a top source for license plate records with more than 2 billion license plate photos. Vigilant Solutions compiled its database through collecting information from vehicle repossession agencies, private organizations and local law enforcement. The firm collects data from camera-equipped police vehicles and generates up to 100 million sightings per month. Each sighing is labeled with a date, time and GPS coordinates, according to its website.
Using the database, ICE agents will be able to see where a license plate has been in the last five years, as well as the addresses of an individual connected to the license plate and known associates.
Jay Stanley studies license plate readers as a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union and, like many other critics, is concerned about how large Vigilant Solutions’ network is and that it is operating completely outside of public accountability.
“There are people circulating in our society who are undocumented. Are we as a society, out of our desire to find those people, willing to let our government create an infrastructure that will track all of us?” Stanley told The Verge. “If ICE were to propose a system that would do what Vigilant does, there would be a huge privacy uproar and I don’t think Congress would approve it. But because it’s a private contract, they can sidestep that process.”
Source: MSN News