Two softball-size cameras on top of an unmarked Maryland State Police cruiser trained in on the license plates whizzing by when, “Bam!” The small computer screen flashed red. the officer flipped on his lights and pulled over a van. Then he slapped the driver with a $140 ticket for a suspended tag resulting from a failed emissions inspection, reports the Washington Post.
The camera had snapped the plate number on his company’s van, along with hundreds of others, and run it through the Motor Vehicle Administration database. The “tag readers” catch not just car thieves, but also drivers who neglected or failed their emissions inspections or let their insurance policies lapse. Some areas use them to enforce parking rules. “What it illustrates is how the technologies for surveillance have developed at the speed of light, but the law that controls how those technologies can be used is still back in the Stone Age,” said Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union. “We’ve got to develop some rules of the road here to protect our privacy.”