Millions of car driving Americans are having their every move watched, photographed, archived, and available online, says a tech watchdog group.
Automatic license plate readers are used all over the country, the Electronic Frontier Foundation watchdog group says that more than 100 of the systems streaming live on the web, potentially compromising personal information of countless Americans, according to Fox News.
An EFF study found that hundreds of the systems tracking the movements of cars, and also scans license plates and generates personal data on the car’s registrant, was being posted online without even password protection.
License plate readers are used in conjunction with law enforcement – and a car’s license plate can be used to track down the owner.
The information is used for everything from issuing traffic tickets to finding murderers.
However, EFF implies that the technology is being used to monitor activity of law-abiding citizens and compile databases.
It says that cameras were trained on a University of Southern California frat house, while another was trained on a Florida gun shop.
‘Anyone in favor of the Second Amendment, I’m sure, could have a problem with that,’ Dave Maass, an EFF researcher and co-author of the report told the outlet.
EFF says that if you plug certain keywords in Shodan, an online search engine, it retrieved hundreds of PIPS [manufactured] camera systems connected to the Internet, often with control panels open and accessible through a Web browser with no password protection.
This means that anyone can simply log on and watch cars and then retrieve personal information about the registrants.
PIPS Technology, which makes the cameras, is owned by 3M.
3M released a statement to Fox News saying that security features within the technology would prevent this happening – and it’s up to law enforcement to implement those security features.
But Maass says this is merely passing the buck, and that bypassing or not implementing the security features shouldn’t even be an option, and that this is a flaw in the system’s technology.
EFF says that their goal in releasing this report is to get law enforcement to strengthen the security of PIPS technology.
For years, privacy groups have complained about license plate readers, which can scan tens of thousands of plates per day – potentially reporting on the activities of millions of law abiding citizens.
Law enforcement has historically been uncooperative in unveiling who can see the compiled information and why, according to a American Civil Liberties Union reported titled ‘You are being tracked.’
The ACLU says the information is being stored with no accountability as to where or why.
‘We have a problem with these large dragnets,’ ACLU policy analyst Jay Stanley told Fox News. ‘We also don’t like when departments store the data for years.’
Police, however, say the cameras keep the public safe and save taxpayers money.
Kenner, Louisiana police chief Michael Glaser, whose department EFF said allowed footage to be streamed unprotected online, told Fox News: ‘[The cameras] help us with everything – homicides, stolen cars …’
In 2014, Joseph Humbles, 21, was convicted in Kenner for the murder of Walter D. Bailey, which happened in 2010 during a robbery.
He also shot Bailey’s unnamed friend, who survived.
Humbles, who only netted $10 from the robbery, shot the victims when they ran away, according to Nola.com.
He was eventually nabbed by cops using a license plate reader.