Thursday, January 10, 2013

Smile for the database

You're not paranoid when they really are watching you, and Canadian cops really are keeping an eye on your movements, or at least those of your car.

So are other police forces across North America.

Maybe you didn't know, so I'm sorry to break it to you.

The RCMP began using Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) in British Columbia in 2006. Now it's everywhere.

The technology uses cameras mounted on police patrol cars, bridges, overpasses, stoplights, integrated with optical-character-recognition to feed license numbers into a database. It's similar to the technology used for the automatic billing systems on toll roads like Highway 407 near Toronto.

In Canada, it has the blessing of the federal and provincial privacy commissioners, and if the vehicle has not had any "violations," individual images are supposedly purged every three months.

In the U.S., some states allow anyone to submit a license number and receive a report covering every place and time that plate was photographed. Repo men love it, but what might a stalker do with that information?

Presumably, your employer could see whether you're goofing off to visit your girlfriend, or grandma, when you're supposed to be on the job.

Lots of potential for abuse.

Interestingly, as seen in this video, these reports can also be used to to locate the stationary readers, as well as track the patrol patterns of the reader-equipped cruisers. Useful info if you're planning a bank heist?

Do you feel safer now?


  1. No wonder Americans carry guns.

    These have been very disturbing blogs of late, Douglas.

  2. It's a disturbing world, Francie. I'll try to lighten up.

  3. Oh no need. It's good to be aware of these things. I'll just wear a bigger tinfoil hat now.