Cassius Methyl and Nick Bernabe
Despite the ongoing debate to roll back the Department of Homeland Security’s current civil liberties overreaches, the DHS is soliciting bids from corporations for access to license plate data collected by private surveillance systems. In a public statement, the Department said it’s “not seeking to build a national database or contribute data to an existing system,” rather, the DHS claims to be tapping into existing networks.
According to the Washington Post, the DHS “is seeking bids from companies that already gather the data to say how much they would charge to grant access to law enforcement officers at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a DHS agency.”
However, public statements vary greatly from the actual implementation of these policies; abuses are almost certain. More personal forms of data such as addresses, telephone numbers, and other information associated with registering a license plate could be “inadvertently” recorded and stored through private surveillance cameras.
Gregory T. Nojeim, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology said, “If this goes forward, DHS will have warrantless access to location information going back at least five years about virtually every adult driver in the U.S., and sometimes to their image as well.”
If they take it so far as to collect facial images, the DHS, and its partnered government agencies, will have the capability of establishing a biometric database. These databases could yield some of the most invasive law enforcement technologies the world has ever seen.
However, this new surveillance tool would only add to the DHS’ already incredible biometric law enforcement abilities. In fact, they have access to the FBI’s enormous multi-biometric database and are trying to extend biometric capabilities to US Border Patrol. According to NextGov, “The [border patrol] test is part of a coming overhaul of the department’s (DHS) biometric system, “IDENT,” which currently contains more than 170 million foreign fingerprints and facial images, as well as 600,000 iris templates.”
This license plate news is more like the cherry on top of the existing surveillance sundae.