May 1, 2014
SECRETS FOR WE, BUT NOT FOR THEE: Cops Must Swear Silence to Access Vehicle Tracking System.
It’s no secret that police departments around the country are deploying automated license plate readers to build massive databases to identify the location of vehicles. But one company behind this Orwellian tracking system is determined to stay out of the news.
How determined? Vigilant Solutions, founded in 2009, claims to have the nation’s largest repository of license-plate images with nearly 2 billion records stored in its National Vehicle Location Service (NVLS). Despite the enormous implications of the database for the public, any law enforcement agency that signs up for the service is sworn to a vow of silence by the company’s terms of service.
Vigilant is clear about the reason for the secrecy: it’s to prevent customers from “cooperating” with media and calling attention to its database.
That database is used by law enforcement and others to track stolen cars or vehicles used in crimes, as well as to locate illegal immigrants, kidnapping victims and others — though the vast majority of license plates stored belong to ordinary drivers who aren’t suspected of a crime.
Hmm. If they haven’t done anything wrong, they should have nothing to hide. Right?