Due to minor surgery, I spent the last several days a bit disconnected from the news. Not completely disconnected. After all, I’m a news junkie. But I tried to stay away from news sources and stories that I knew would raise my ire — if you know what I mean.
This morning, feeling almost human again, I returned to my daily routine of reviewing news and commentary impacting privacy, security and liberty issues.
I didn’t go far before coming across a worrisome report from WTOP, the all-news radio station I used to listen to when I lived in the belly of the beast — Washington, DC.
The report concerns the creation of a national license plate database.
Before I share what I learned, and what I think members of the Self-Reliance Institute should do, I want to provide you with the link to this month’s Self-Reliance Institute Newsletter.
The February edition of the Self-Reliance Institute can be found by clicking — HERE.
Now, back to the report from WTOP, “National License Plate Database Sparks Privacy Fears.”
According to WTOP:
“The Department of Homeland Security is now seeking a vendor to build and operate a smartphone-based national database of vehicle license plate information that would be shared with law enforcement.
“Under the DHS plan, an agent could snap a photo with a smartphone, upload it to the database, and immediately be notified whether the plate is on a ‘hot list’ of ‘target vehicles.’
“’This system is supposed to be for the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement branch of DHS, for the tracking of illegal immigrants,’ says WTOP National Security Correspondent J.J. Green.
“ICE spokesperson Gillian Christensen tells Federal News Radio, ‘the database could only be accessed in conjunction with ongoing criminal investigations.’”
Now I suspect most folks across the country who saw or heard this report believe a national database of license plates used to track illegal immigrants is a good tool for law enforcement.
Perhaps it is.
But, when it comes to the government, I believe in the slippery slope theory. In other words, once the government has information in a database that is supposed to be used for one purpose, it won’t be long before it uses the information for other, more nefarious, purposes.
In fact, WTOP’s report gives credence to that concern by indicating how this system has been used in the U.K.
“Green says a similar plate recognition system has been in use in the United Kingdom, using an extensive network of closed-circuit television cameras.
“’It pretty much catches all the movements of cars, people, buses – pretty much anything that moves, at least in the cities,’ says Green.”
Given the increased use of cameras across the United States, how long do you think it will be before the U.S. government coordinates this new national license plate database system with cameras as a means to photograph and analyze “all the movements of cars, people, buses – pretty much anything that moves.”?
Personally, I believe that will happen almost immediately. I believe the purpose of the system will grow from ongoing criminal investigations of illegal immigrants to the collection of real-time data about American citizens.
Can there be any doubt, given the ongoing revelations of domestic spying and data collection by the NSA, that the government will use a national license plate database for more than just tracking illegal immigrants?
Even the WTOP reporter acknowledges these concerns.
“’There are some significant concerns,’ says WTOP’s Green, ‘and probably rightly so, in light of the Edward Snowden revelations, that it could be used for something other than what it’s intended for.’
“Green says the increased use of technology in maintaining public safety makes some people nervous.
“’You walk out of your house with a smartphone, you’re on the grid. You walk to your car, there possibly is a camera that tracks you to your car. You get in your car, you probably have some sort of WiFi capability in your car, so your car is on the grid. You go into your building there are cameras in the building.’
“According to Green, ‘People are concerned this is going to be another piece of information the government could use to keep tabs on them 24 hours a day.’”
Personally, I don’t think there’s any question that a national license plate database will become one more surveillance tool used by the federal government against American citizens.
So what do we do if we don’t want this type of system put in place?
We have to call our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. and tell them to stop the establishment of a national license plate database.
And I do mean call.
I can tell you from observation and inside knowledge that the email systems in Congress are ignored. They only pay attention to actual phone calls and letters from constituents.
And here’s the important part. They do pay attention. Other privacy-invading legislation has been stopped before. If enough Americans speak out and call Congress, this can be stopped.
If you’d like to call or write your members of Congress – House and Senate – you can find their phone numbers and addresses by clicking HERE.
Finally, let me know what you think.
Do you believe the U.S. government should create a national license plate database?
If it is created, do you believe the government will use the database to track all Americans, not just illegal immigrants?
Email me at [email protected] and let me know.
Be safe and secure,