News

Should Menlo Park register private license plate readers?

 

With a policy governing the use of automated license plate readers by the police department now in place, the Menlo Park City Council may move on to regulating the use of such technology by private companies.

From Oct. 1, 2014, through Jan. 1, 2015, the police department's three mobile automated license plate readers captured 172,001 plates, according to a quarterly report presented at the Feb. 24 council meeting.

Of the 124 plates that were tagged by the system as belonging to wanted vehicles, the "vast majority" were false hits -- the officer running the reader compared the computer's image to the actual plate and found a mismatch. But four led to the recovery of unoccupied stolen vehicles, the police department said.

The Menlo Park Police Department also queried the license plate database nine times for investigative purposes during those three months, according to the report.

Council members noted during the report's presentation that the readers are working as planned. But Councilman Ray Mueller wants to know whether anything should be done about license plate readers operated by private parties, who collect data to use for marketing or to sell to background check services, for example.

He suggested first determining how many private operators are running license plate readers within Menlo Park, and then creating a registration or permit program so that the city -- and police department -- know who else is collecting the data.

"If we're going to regulate the police department and we know private companies are doing this, we should look into it," Mr. Mueller said.

His council colleagues wondered how widespread the issue is.

"Many, many, many private entities collect license plate information," Cmdr. Dave Bertini told them. He said that private operators don't have the capacity to determine who a license plate number is registered to, but the data can be used by someone who already knows the identity of a particular plate's owner.

Mayor Cat Carlton said she was "a little blown away" by the idea of private companies deploying the license plate readers, but not quite enough to leap onboard the idea of a registration program.

Like council members Rich Cline and Kirsten Keith, she was reluctant to spend a lot of time and money to get a program going, only to find that there may not be any such private operators in Menlo Park. They also suggested this may be a problem to tackle at the state level, perhaps through Assemblyman Rich Gordon.

Mr. Mueller said the state has been trying for years without success to regulate it, so he was interested in looking at it from a city standpoint.

City Manager Alex McIntyre said he needed to talk to the city attorney to delineate a possible legal framework for monitoring private license plate reader operators, and whether the issue belonged at a local, or at a broader, level.

Comments

25 people like this
Posted by Nick S.
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 6, 2015 at 11:17 am

Sad to see a progressive and responsible idea immediately shot down by political hyperbole and excuses. Were any costs identified before this idea was determined to be too expensive? My guess is not. The costs certainly aren't listed in this article. Keep pushing Ray. Appreciate that someone is trying to protect my privacy.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 6, 2015 at 11:47 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is a fool's errand. Dash cams and LPRs operated by private individuals are beyond the reach of the City of Menlo Park. The Supreme Court years ago decided that images of public spaces and activity therein are not protected from observation

The Fourth Amendment limits what government can do but not what individuals can do.

And the First Amendment would prohibit limitations on what individuals may do - ask Barbara Streisand:
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by I'm with peter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2015 at 12:10 pm

The role of city council to to accomplish things within the scope of city council. It's true that private investigators can cross the line.

A well known Menlo Park private investigator (that advertised in the Post) was recently arrested for illegally breaking into the computer system of private companies. This was reported in the Merc, but was not newsworthy for any of our local papers.


21 people like this
Posted by Segev
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 6, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Why can't the City require permits to operate lprs in the City? Peter if the cases you cite are so old how do you know the Supreme Court would even apply those decisions to lprs? I agree with Nick.


Like this comment
Posted by I'm with Peter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2015 at 12:28 pm

The Menlo Park PI case was on local news.
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 6, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Why can't the City require permits to operate lprs in the City?"

For the same reason that the city cannot require newspapers to obtain a permit:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Like this comment
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 6, 2015 at 2:14 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Nice try Ray, but you are out of bounds. The CC needs to work on city issues. Try passing a law and see what happens. Peter is correct.


Like this comment
Posted by jimturner2@aol.com
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 6, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Until know I've never heard of private license plate readers. How much access to DMV data can private parties obtain from the DMV just by asking? I'd guess that DMV data is highly restricted.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 6, 2015 at 6:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Web Link

" License-plate-reader companies don’t have access to DMV registrations, so while they can track your car, they don’t know it’s yours. That information is guarded by the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994, which keeps your name, address, and driving history from public view. Mostly. There are plenty of exceptions, including for insurance companies and private investigators. LPR companies say only two groups can use its software to find the person behind the plate: law-enforcement agencies and repossession companies. In addition, the encrypted databases keep a log of each plate search and allow the ability to restrict access.

The companies that push plate readers enjoy unregulated autonomy in most states. Vigilant Solutions of California and its partner, Texas-based Digital Recognition Network, boast at least 2 billion license-plate scans since starting the country’s largest private license-plate database, the National Vehicle Location Service, in 2009.

In total, there are at least 3 billion license-plate photos in private databases. Since many are duplicates and never deleted, analytics can paint a vivid picture of any motorist. Predicting where and when someone will drive is relatively easy; software can sort how many times a car is spotted in a certain area and, when fed enough data, can generate a person’s driving history over time."


2 people like this
Posted by Old MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 7, 2015 at 7:53 am

As the saying goes: A solution in search of a problem.


18 people like this
Posted by Northern Exposure
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 7, 2015 at 10:06 am

This is great!

Private companies can track all movement of your car, your wife's car and your granddaughter's car, etc.. and sell it as part of large databases.

Awesome.

Does the tracking stop at your property line? ie... if you are parked on private property, but the license plate is visible to the street (on a driveway, for instance) we can still sell and trade that data.

First customers? Insurance companies.

But the possibilities are endless in this time of global data mining. It's available TO ANYONE with a buck, that wants to know you.

Yippee!


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2015 at 10:27 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Does the tracking stop at your property line? ie... if you are parked on private property, but the license plate is visible to the street"

As the Streisand case shows if it is visible from outside/above the property the information is in the public domain.


20 people like this
Posted by Northern Exposure
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 7, 2015 at 11:38 am

Thank you, Peter.

This is great news. Almost no matter where we drive or are parked, companies can track our movements and sell that information to the highest bidder.

And the lowest bidder. And everyone in between, to chase the almighty bitcoin, and other currency of the realm.

In fact, they can sell and distribute this information as they see fit. Even as they do not see 'fit', as their databases will probably be hacked, and this information goes into the underground hacking community, along with the above ground "for-profit-at-all-costs-your-protection-be-damned" community. Shall we google "DMV database hacks", for grins?

And of course, the government agencies will have their access, sort of in a mid-ish above-ground/underground capability.

I love technology. Ain't it grand? Private companies, without any protection or regulation,can track my wife and kids for me. This is great.

What could go wrong?



"That information is guarded by the Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994, which keeps your name, address, and driving history from public view.

Mostly.

THERE ARE PLENTY OF EXCEPTIONS, including <BUT NOT LIMITED TO> for insurance companies and private investigators."



18 people like this
Posted by Liberty
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 7, 2015 at 11:41 am

It's always amazing how people will support wars in foreign countries to protect liberty and then be content and apathetic to watch it erode at home.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2015 at 11:44 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Anyone who thinks that they have privacy in public spaces or when observable from a public space is sadly mistaken.

And it is a bit strange to be driving around with a license plate on your car and assuming that nobody can see your license plate. Or that FastTrak doesn't take your license plate photo every time you go thru a toll both.

Personally I would love to see LPRs used to identify cars that are stopped on the railroad tracks.


7 people like this
Posted by Drones?
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 7, 2015 at 11:47 am

Peter: "As the Streisand case shows if it is visible from outside/above the property the information is in the public domain."

Looks like drones are going to be having a field day with our privacy rights. Remember, the erosion of privacy rights STARTS (not STOPS) with GOVERNMENT infringing on them.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2015 at 11:54 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The use of drones by government agencies is very strictly controlled. For example, look at the Fire District's very restrictive policy on its use of drones - a policy driven by your elected officials to protect your rights while still allowing the Fire District to use life saving tools.

The use of drone by individuals is virtually uncontrolled.

So your "erosion of privacy" starts with citizens not government.


13 people like this
Posted by Hypocritical
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 7, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Peter C. praises the fire district for regulating its use of drones while simultaneously poo-pooing Mueller's efforts to have the city regulate commercial LPRs. The district isn't the only entity that can or should care about rights, yeesh.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Hypo - use entirely missed the point. The Fire District is regulating ITS use of drone - a very appropriate government function.

What Mueller is proposing is to for the City of Menlo Park to regulate the private acquisition and use of information - something specifically prohibited by the First Amendment.


18 people like this
Posted by 1st Amendment?
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 7, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Peter, I didn't know you had a law degree? Where did you attend law school?


9 people like this
Posted by 1st Amendment?
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 7, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Peter, I didn't know you had a law degree? Where did you attend law school?


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I did not attend law school nor do I have a law degree.

As an informed and responsible citizen I have carefully read the Constitution and I have also taken law school classes taught by Prof. Greely on the Constitution.



18 people like this
Posted by Hypocritical
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 7, 2015 at 2:41 pm

I am comfortable with the point I made and suggest you, Peter C., are missing the obvious one that laws change as technology does.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Changing the First Amendment would require a Constitutional Amendment:

"A proposed amendment may be adopted and sent to the states for ratification by either:
The United States Congress, whenever a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives deem it necessary;
OR
A national convention, called by Congress for this purpose, on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds (presently 34) of the states.
To become part of the Constitution, an adopted amendment must be ratified by either (as determined by Congress):
The legislatures of three-fourths (presently 38) of the states, within the stipulated time period—if any;
OR
State ratifying conventions in three-fourths (presently 38) of the states, within the stipulated time period—if any.
Upon being properly ratified, an amendment becomes an operative addition to the Constitution."

There has never even been an attempt to amend or modify the First Admendment and the courts have constantly reaffirmed the First Amendment even as technology has advanced.

I welcome evidence to the contrary.


18 people like this
Posted by 1st Amendment?
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 7, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Peter, first, there are a number of statutes—the Video Voyeurism Act and California’s Anti-Paparazzi laws, to name a few—that make illegal collecting certain types of information, even in public places. To date, such laws have been held constitutional. Second, the way I read the article, Mueller isn't proposing prohibiting the LPRs yet, but rather just requiring a permit to conduct the activity. Thus there is no prior restraint, even if you were correct and first amendment protection applies. Nothing Mueller is proposing is unconstitutional.



Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Requiring a license is prior restraint.

Can you imagine a newspaper or printer or a photographer being required to have such a license?


2 people like this
Posted by Memories
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2015 at 4:12 pm

Do the security guards on the streets in front of the homes of local billionaires use private LPRs? If so, what data are they obtaining about cars nearby?


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"what data are they obtaining about cars nearby?"

If those cars are visible from any public space then anyone can photograph them and record any visible information about them including their license plates.


20 people like this
Posted by 1st Amendment?
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 7, 2015 at 4:53 pm

Assuming the first amendment applies the activity of a machine capturing license plate numbers indiscriminately, which I don't, requiring a permit for such activity is not in and of itself a prior restraint. Requiring a permit with unreasonable or arbitrary criteria would be a prior restraint. One can easily distinguish a private license plate reader company from a newspaper.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

My dash cam captures license plates of every car that passes in front of me, as do my eyes and any other camera that I might choose to use. I seriously doubt that the City of Menlo Park has the authority to require a license for my dash cam, my eyes or for any other camera.


Like this comment
Posted by A Word of Warning
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:06 am

Requiring a license may be prior restraint, but requiring a license plate, apparently, is not. I was recently cited by the Menlo Park police while driving thru Atherton for not having a front license plate. I've fixed the problem, had the Atherton police sign off on it and still have no idea what the amount due is because the police never know how much a ticket costs (why be the bearer of bad news?) and the people who do have very limited phone hours (why not put it on the ticket?). I have no excuse for my ignorance of the law but, in my opinion, it was a lot of time wasted all around. I guess with all this expensive technology they want to be sure they can capture us from both ends.


1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 9, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

A Word:

the law requiring a front license plate predates all this technology by a looooong time. It's been around since at least the 70's, but probably longer than that. By the way, it's a fix it ticket. Fix it, get it signed off and send proof to the court. There used to be instructions on the back of the ticket. It used to be $10.


1 person likes this
Posted by A word of warning
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 9, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Menlo Voter:

The law requiring a front license plate has been around, but rarely enforced. Now that expensive scanners have been purchased, I imagine enforcement will go up. In hopes of saving others time: the amount due is not on the ticket - it's $25. The number to call to find out the amount due has limited hours. After being on hold for an hour and 20 minutes I was told my ticket (which was issued Feb 2) was not yet in the system. You cannot mail in your ticket until it's in the system. They have up to a year to put it in. I must wait for the courtesy notice which will indicate that they now know of my ticket. They may or may not send a courtesy notice. It may come after the date I am scheduled to appear. If that happens, I must call again on the right day at the right time and wait for an hour and 20 minutes to tell them I can't pay them because they haven't got my ticket in their system. The ticket was generated by a hand held computer. How is it not in their system? Come on folks. If you're going to give tickets, let us pay them.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 9, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Word:

rarely enforced? When I was in law enforcement we used it as probable cause all of the time. Clearly you've never parked over night in Menlo Park without a front plate. Not only will you get a ticket for overnight parking, you'll get a separate one for no front plate.


7 people like this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2015 at 9:43 pm

Congress passed, and Obama signed, a bill requiring the FAA to make the National Air Space (NAS) redesign called "NextGen", accommodate the operation of UASs (unmanned aerial systems or drones).

Defense contractors are busily developing a number of different aerial platforms which will be equipped with giga-pixel cameras, under contract from various three-letter government agencies.

In May 2006 Mark Klein is a former AT&T technician in San Francisco, leaked knowledge of his company's cooperation with the United States National Security Agency in installing network hardware to monitor, capture, and process American telecommunications.

Klein revealed that AT&T allowed the NSA to construct and equip a secret room in a San Francisco AT&T switching center, with data-mining equipment that forwarded internet traffic to the NSA. Klein said the equipment used to capture 100% of the internet traffic passing through the San Francisco hub was manufactured by an Israeli company, named Narus Inc. In 2010, Narus became a subsidiary of Boeing, located in Sunnyvale, CA.

It is not hard to imagine where this is all leading.


NSA Leak Vindicates AT&T Whistle-blower (Mark Klein)
Wired ~ June 27, 2013 Web Link

Narus Inc: Web Link


9 people like this
Posted by Northern Exposure
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 11, 2015 at 10:08 am

For the provincially proud: the NSA scoops up the entire internet right here in our backyard!

Room 641A
611 Folsom Street
San Francisco

Ain't technology grand?!?

Let for-profit companies scoop up data on all our habits and driving.

Let them track your wife and kids and sell the data to the highest bidder!

The highest bidder will have reasons to bid for that data on you, your wife and kids, and it will be profitable!


3 people like this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2015 at 9:56 pm

Peter,

"License-plate-reader companies don't have access to DMV registrations, so while they can track your car, they don't know it's yours. That information is guarded by the Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994, which keeps your name, address, and driving history from public view. Mostly. There are plenty of exceptions, including for insurance companies and private investigators. LPR companies say only two groups can use its software to find the person behind the plate: law-enforcement agencies and REPOSSESSION COMPANIES. In addition, the encrypted databases keep a log of each plate search and allow the ability to restrict access."

Oh yeah... we should all feel a lot better that only law enforcement, PIs, and repo-men, have access to the data.


10 people like this
Posted by Northern Exposure
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 12, 2015 at 10:59 am

" LPR companies say only two groups can use its software to find the person behind the plate: law-enforcement agencies and repossession companies."


THIS IS AWESOME!!


Repo men are the FINEST, the most UPSTANDING citizens around!!! It's all good, ezzy-peezy, pumpkin pie.

Never, ever, no sirree cheezburger, will that data ever be compromised or illicitly find its way into the wrong hands or be misused!!!

The 'every-move' of your wife and daughter are TOTALLY SAFE!

Why, I bet, those records are guarded better than Target's customer credit card data! What more could we ask for?

Yippee Skippy!!!

Move along, nothing to see here, go grab a cheezburger.


Like this comment
Posted by Jetman
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2015 at 5:15 pm

"1.8 gigapixel ARGUS-IS - world's highest res video surveillance platform"
PBS: Rise of the Drones ~ January 23, 2013 Web Link


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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