Posted by: crudbasher | March 6, 2014

License Plate Readers Go Commercial

This doesn’t directly relate to education but it illustrates the empowering of creative individuals.

H/T BetaBoston

While public debate about the license reading technology has centered on how police should use it, business has eagerly adopted the $10,000 to $17,000 scanners with remarkably few limits.

At least 10 repossession companies in Massachusetts say they mount the scanners on spotter cars or tow trucks, and Digital Recognition Network of Fort Worth, Texas, claims to collect plate scans of 40 percent of all US vehicles annually.

[…]

Meanwhile, private companies were quietly and rapidly finding ways to profit from much larger databases with little public discussion. Digital Recognition Network, with the help of about 400 repossession companies across the United States, has increased the number of ­license scans in its database tenfold since September 2010, and the firm continues to add another 70 million scans per month, according to company disclosures. Digital Recognition’s top rival, Illinois-based MVTRAC, has not disclosed the size of its database, but claimed in a 2012 Wall Street Journal interview to have scans of “a large majority” of vehicles registered in the United States.

Apparently you can pay $25 and get a comprehensive report of where a plate has been over time. Now the readers are still pretty pricey but what happens when the technology can be used in any camera? Imagine surveillance cameras at a mall recording the license plates and contributing to a database somewhere. It’s extra revenue for them. The management of the mall can then be notified immediately if a car pulls in that is wanted for a crime. At least they can be on the lookout for suspicious people.

Lots of people are concerned about privacy but in the end we won’t have any. You just can’t stop this sort of technology. You can’t even outlaw it because you can get a computer to analyze images from a regular cell phone camera and pull out the license plates. Let’s face it, being out in public means no privacy.

Of course this works both ways; our government can spy on us, but we can also spy on them. Politicians are having a difficult time doing deals now that the Internet makes transparency much more likely.

Data is the new gold rush of the 21st century.

 

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