Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’


Dear John

November 28, 2015

As I’ve mentioned earlier it’s not privacy that the government should respect: it’s anonymity. Your public actions & speech can’t be private, of course, but the government should treat them anonymously (unless you’re committing a crime).

Here’s some nasty news about Los Angeles and its license plate database which is a wonderful illustration of why anonymity’s important.

Because who knows what the next politician or bureaucrat will come up with?

Los Angeles Just Proposed the Worst Use of License Plate Reader Data in History.

Last month, when I spoke on a panel called “Spying in Public: Policy and Practice” at the 25th Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference in Washington, DC, we were embroiled in a discussion of license plate readers. As a law enforcement technologist, and a working police detective, I generally support the use of license plate readers. I discussed at the conference a child pornography case in which the suspect (now indicted) had fled the city and the police located him using the technology.

From the back of the room came the comment, “The issue is the potentially chilling effect that this technology has on freedom of association and freedom of transportation.”

That’s literally the phrase that leapt into my mind when I read the monumentally over-reaching idea posed by Nury Martinez, a 6th district Los Angeles city councilwoman, to access a database of license plates captured in certain places around the city, translate these license plates to obtain the name and address of each owner, and send to that owner a letter explaining that the vehicle was seen in, “an area known for prostitution.” […]

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to ask the office of the District Attorney for their help implementing the plan.

Have Ms. Martinez and the Los Angeles City Council taken leave of their senses? This scheme makes, literally, a state issue out of legal travel to arbitrary places deemed by some — but not by a court, and without due process — to be “related” to crime in general, not to any specific crime.

There isn’t “potential” for abuse here, this is a legislated abuse of technology that is already controversial when it’s used by police for the purpose of seeking stolen vehicles, tracking down fugitives and solving specific crimes. […]

All your license plate numbers are belong to them.


All your license plate numbers are belong to us

April 5, 2014

In the EFF article quoted below, the Los Angeles Police Department makes an interesting claim that all vehicle license plates that are imaged by their ALPR systems are ‘under investigation’… on the principle that those plates might someday be under investigation.

I’m tempted to ridicule that idea by suggesting that the LAPD should take fingerprints and mugshots of all Los Angeles citizens… on the principle that those people might someday be under investigation.

But I won’t make that reductio ad absurdum argument because if the LAPD gets away with secrecy in its ALPR system, the sequel might easily be fingerprints and mugshots for everyone.

If some surveillance is good, then more is better. Right?

Los Angeles Cops Argue All Cars in LA Are Under Investigation

Do you drive a car in the greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area? According to the L.A. Police Department and L.A. Sheriff’s Department, your car is part of a vast criminal investigation.

The agencies took a novel approach in the briefs they filed in EFF and the ACLU of Southern California’s California Public Records Act lawsuit seeking a week’s worth of Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) data. They have argued that “All [license plate] data is investigatory.” The fact that it may never be associated with a specific crime doesn’t matter.

This argument is completely counter to our criminal justice system, in which we assume law enforcement will not conduct an investigation unless there are some indicia of criminal activity. In fact, the Fourth Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution exactly to prevent law enforcement from conducting mass, suspicionless investigations under “general warrants” that targeted no specific person or place and never expired.

Just for clarity, I think anyone who expects privacy while he’s in public hasn’t really thought things through. To talk of privacy while driving a public road or while speaking or meeting in public is a very imprecise way of speaking.

What we expect in public is anonymity, not privacy. We expect our actions & conversations to be ignored by the state unless it has good reason to suspect us of criminal activity — just as we expect passers-by not to eavesdrop on our conversation, even though our speech may be plainly audible to them.

So while we may act and speak in public, those actions and that speech are no concern of the state’s unless it can show good cause for actively monitoring one or both of them.

In other words, it ain’t nobody’s business buy my own.

H.T. Paul

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