Garbage Trucks to Begin Recording License Plates for Law Enforcement

ca_criminalBy Kristen Anderson

Don’t feel like your privacy is invaded enough? Hoping that the government will begin collecting more of your personal data? Good news! Garbage trucks may soon hit the streets fitted with license plate readers in the San Francisco Bay Area. These handy scanners will sweep the streets at least once a week and provide law enforcement with vehicle location in real time.

The City Counsel voted 4-1 in August to continue planning how to use the technology to provide efficient and effective intelligence to local law enforcement. The scanners cost $15,000 each, and the city could have a constant stream of data coming in.

While law enforcement touts this as an efficient way to deter vehicle theft and locate vehicles that have already been stolen, many are expressing alarm. The plan raises significant concerns due to the fact that it would turn private waste collection companies into agents of law enforcement. The ramifications of this kind of data storage is causing outrage among civil liberties activists because it is not clear what the limits of this data are. Will the data really only be used to help locate stolen vehicles? Or will it be used if law enforcement want to find a criminal suspect? Will it be used if the government wants to monitor the movements of certain citizens? How long before this plan comes to a city near you?

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Kristen Anderson writes for

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