short for Automatic License Plate Recognition. Sometimes I find mention of the most interesting things in the most unexpected places. Like this brief article on how police in British Columbia are currently using a system that can easily and quickly scan license plate numbers as they drive along that I saw in bookofjoe. Surprised I didn’t see see it anywhere else, oddly enough, particularly given the implications for privacy, etc. Not necessarily that there are any – after all, license plates are there so that they can be seen by the public at large and police officers. That being said, I find it interesting how the application of new technology (optical recognition) to old technology (license plates), significantly alters the implications of how the old technology is perceived.
Sure, its one thing to have police on the lookout for a particular license plate on a car with a known felon who is escaping, but it seems to be quite another for a police car to scan and process thousands upon thousands of license plates while driving around the city.
They’ve had (at least) one of these cars in Toronto for several years now – I see it all the time down in the lower east end of the city all the time.
From what I’ve seen their primary use for it is locating stolen cars – the theory being they have to be parked somewhere. I remember seeing a segment about them on Discovery a few years back and apparently they’ve been quite effective.
Yeah it gobbles through thousands of plates a day, but if you aren’t doing anything wrong you really don’t have anything to worry about.
Cool. I didn’t realize they had them in Toronto. Certainly neat technology.
I certainly don’t disagree with the ends – i.e. finding stolen cars, but as with most privacy issues it has more to do with whether the ends justifying the means and the right to be left alone.
In the former camp, an extreme example is whether 24 hour surveillance of each and every member of society would be justified to prevent all crime (since such surveillance certainly could).
In the latter, that same argument could be used to justify virtually any invasion of privacy – for example – no one should complain if their e-mail, telephone calls are monitored. Or, for that matter, if the government decides to wire surveillance cameras in bedrooms, since if you’re not doing anything wrong, then there’s nothing to worry about.