Privacy Experts Worry About Inaccuracies In Police Tracking Technology


A trial is near in a lawsuit by Denise Green of San Francisco, who was detained when an automatic license-plate reader on a police car mistakenly identified her vehicle as stolen, says the Center for Investigative Reporting. “It was a nightmare,” Green said. “I had no idea what was going on or why they were treating me like a criminal.” The use of license-plate readers has emerged as a major concern among privacy advocates. Car-tracking technology is becoming ubiquitous in U.S. cities, and the types of data collected and analyzed with the help of license-plate readers is expanding into other realms of personal information.

A leading maker of license-plate readers wants to merge the vehicle identification technology with other sources of identifying information. Vigilant Solutions is pushing a system that eventually could help fuse public records, license plates and facial recognition databases for police in the field. The California-based company released facial recognition software last year for use in stationary and mobile devices. The technology uses algorithms to determine whether a person’s face matches that of someone in a law enforcement database. Like license-plate readers, privacy advocates say, the technology can make incorrect identifications that ensnare innocent people.

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