Homeland Security Quickly Cancels Plan For License-Plate Tracking Database


U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson cancelled a plan by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to develop a national license-plate tracking system after privacy advocates raised concerns, the Washington Post reports. The order came a few days after ICE solicited proposals from companies to compile a database of license-plate information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers. Officials said the database was intended to help apprehend fugitive illegal immigrants. The plan raised concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized

The data would have been drawn from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their paths, and would have been accessed only for “ongoing criminal investigations or to locate wanted individuals,” officials said. An ICE spokesperson said the solicitation was posted “without the awareness of ICE leadership.” The fact that ICE leaders didn’t know “highlights a serious management problem within this DHS component that currently does not have a director nominated by the president,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. He said he hopes officials will consult with the department's privacy and civil liberties officers in the future. The ICE solicitation stated that the database should comply with the Privacy Act of 1974. Harley Geiger of the Center for Democracy & Technology said, “the Privacy Act protections are quite weak, especially because they have loads of exemptions for law enforcement.”

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