Arizona Politicians Realize The Unintended Consequences Of Tracking Technologies And Data Retention

from the not-all-good dept

One thing politicians often have trouble with is understanding the unintended consequences of various regulations they put in place. Unfortunately, all too often, they assume that there couldn’t possibly be any unintended consequences and insist that their laws will do exactly what they’re supposed to do. Unfortunately, that’s rarely true. Many people have been worried that various laws to monitor people and retain data will have unintended consequences, but politicians for the most part seem to ignore that complaint. However, it seems like some Arizona politicians have discovered what unintended consequences look like. They were happy to hear that Arizona state police were making use of a new scanner system that would scan license plates to see if it spotted any stolen vehicles. The scanner would then store the information on the plates it scanned for 3 months. Then some people pointed out that the government was then retaining a pretty detailed database of where an awful lot of Arizona citizens might be at any point in time — which seems like a pretty serious privacy violation. Luckily, rather than ignore the issue, the politicians are now proposing that the police ditch the data every 24 hours to avoid such problems. Of course, somehow it seems unlikely that the same politicians will realize that the exact same problems also apply to forcing ISPs to retain data on where their customers are surfing the internet.

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Comments on “Arizona Politicians Realize The Unintended Consequences Of Tracking Technologies And Data Retention”

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Neal says:

They'll realize

They’ll realize all right, not just the issue with the Internet, but all such issues. Politicians, as we all know, are some of the most crooked individuals on the planet. It’s only a matter of time before a few more of them are caught doing something they never should have gotten near much less involved with. The catcher will be they got caught because of their own bad laws. The laws will change then – to exclude governement officials from tracking of course.

security (user link) says:

Database Integration & Detection Abilities?

This type of scanning technology would be useful if it ties in with a STOLEN CAR database – so that once a license plate is scanned – the technology INTERPRETS the numbers and letters – that would have a triggering mechanism that would go into place if it matched a list of REPORTED stolen vehicles.

Of course, one problem is that a percentage of victims do not always know that a parked car has been stolen within a 24 hour period.

So, one has to compare the privacy concerns and potential abuses with the benefits of possible reclaiming a car a catching a felon to prevent him from stealing more cars.

Keybored says:

who give's a crap

Why is it a privacy issue if there a huge database of where cars have been parked? Who gives a crap! Let’s see; car X was at a diner, Lowe’s, a movie rental place and then stopped for gas. Big F’n deal. I’d rather my stolen car returned. Oh wait privacy “advocates’ are worried about being caught in the red light district or knows where!

If you are a high ranking government official, what the hell are you doing there anyway? I hope you do get caught.

Brad says:

Re: who give's a crap

Well, because “red light” districts are legal and your travels there shouldn’t be tracked by the state.

How about your health insurance company noting that you stop at a doughnut shop 4 days a week? They raise your rates — you okay with that?

What if they show you don’t go to church? Oh no!

You’re just one of those citizens who wants the government to run the country — with as little effort on your part. You want a king, not a president. Laws from a “magic, infallible book”, not laws made and agreed to by men.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: who give's a crap

“Why is it a privacy issue if there a huge database of where cars have been parked?”

Why would it be a constitutional issue if you were arrested and charged because your car was spotted near the scene of a murder and you just happened to have had a falling-out with the victim some time before and you took a walk to clar your head. That’s not a problem is it? I mean who gives a crap? You OBVIOUSLY are the murderer, right.

People who talk like you have never been at the wrong end of circumstantial evidence.

There are many, many other reasons to oppose this but that’s one of the biggies.

Chris says:

you're missing the point.

The government was never supposed to have the ability to do such things. They shouldn’t monitor our behaviours, spending habits, or our general day to day activites. The FEDERAL Government is only supposed to be in place to do the things that the local and state governments cannot. Such as enter into treaties with other countires, collect taxes for the services offered, and have a military force. Congress should not be allowed to enact a law that requires every ISP in America to retain data on it’s users. Quite frankly they shouldn’t be able to tell a business what they can or cannot do; that’s up to the cities and states to decide. So when the goverment starts tracking where our car has been, and how crooked politicians can be, it wouldn’t take long for them to start using the data they’ve collected with malicious intent. As far as us “privacy advocates” go we happen to understand there’s a Constitution of the United STATES of America. Not a Constituion of the sole governing body of Washington D.C. Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness doesn’t mean the goverment should be there to restrict our abilites to function. Instead of them prying into every aspect of our personal lives, they should only be there to interveen where a communities ability to resolve a conflict fails.

Matthew says:


I don’t think you are getting it, Keybored. They might not have it now, but that does not mean that they can’t get the means to manage all these massive databases later.

What if someone malicious gets into this Db and blackmails you because your car was parked at a movie theater when you should have been at work? What if your parents, SO, Boss starts getting the info to track your whereabouts 24 hours a day?

The slope slips further down and we have to be very mindful of our steps now before we’re too far down the hole later.

misanthropic humanist says:

Keybored, I take it you’re fairly young. What you are suffering from is called fear. When you grow up you will realise that you don’t need a big strong man to protect you. In fact you must become that big strong person yourself, forge an identity of your own and become capable of self sufficiency and self determination.

Those are the principles your country was built on.

Please don’t drag the rest of us down to the level of your sobbing insecurity, cynicism and weakness.

If you’re so sure that privacy is not useful perhaps you need to study some European history from France and Germany to see what happens to the collaborators and apologists once the rot is cleared out and the witch-hunts start. Then you might reconsider taking side against the rights of your fellow citizens.

Keith says:

Welcome to the 1984 Bug

It came late because it’s a government project!

I’m old enough to remember when one of the criticisms against the Soviets was their tracking of citizen behavior. Between secret police demanding “your papers, please!” to having to get permission to travel, from “collective ownership” of land to “block watchers,” who reported where you went and who you visited, the USSR was supposed to be a pretty bad place to live.

Hmmm . . .your papers must be presented when you travel today, and if there is a “mistake” in the database, your 5-year-old son may not be able to get on the airliner with you. Your land belongs to the tax man, the EPA and the neighborhood committee, and everywhere you go, you’re on Candid Camera.

Yep, this is sure the Land of the Free, isn’t it???

Joe Smith says:

unintended consequences

Intended consequences happen because either politicians don’t under stand the systeme they are trying to control or they are too stupid to predict how people will react to the law.

Policitians of course are not unique in this regard and a lot of what we call progress is accomplished purely by trial and error.

Overcast says:

Well, first off you need to think..

What kind of person does it actually take to be a politician. I mean, afterall – many of us could have aspired to be a politician.

Why aren’t you one?

I’m not because I can’t stand backstabbing, lying, cheating, stealing, and the like – just to get to the top of the ‘power’ pyramid of politics.

So to that: what kind of person would even aspire to become a politician. What types of tactics and such would one have to use to rise to power as a politician.

After asking myself all those questions, it becomes much more clear why politicians do what they do..

See – they don’t like the license plate data, because they are subject to that also. They don’t give a flying fook about us… BUT, they don’t want these records being used as blackmail or political ammo against them when there’s record of their car going to their coke dealer or hooker’s house.

Internet? No problem, I’m SURE they wouldn’t get monitored..

I’m ok with the ISP’s keeping data for 90 days – IF AND ONLY if, the politicians personal and office internet logs are public domain.

Afterall, if they do that – shouldn’t their surfing habits be subject to the freedom of information act?

Jerry Howe says:


One day the goverment came and took away the Jews. I said nothing because I am not a Jew
One day the goverment came and took away the blacks I said nothing because I am not black
One day the goverment came and took away the teachers I said nothing because I am not a teacher
One day the goverment came to take me away.
Will somebody say something. Please!!!

mark says:

what's the big deal?

I would glady allow my driving records to be tracked, my DNA sample archived, and my fingerprints taken and shared with all law enforcement agencies. I know I’m doing nothing criminal, and believe the benefits far outweigh the loss of anonymity. Imagine how many more murderers, rapists and pedafiles would be off the streets if every human being at birth or at driver’s license registration had to submit a DNA sample?

The important thing, in my mind, is to put protections in place so that this information is not misused.

Wizard Prang (user link) says:

Re: The big deal.

“The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either.” — Benjamin Franklin

It is not a matter of how the information would be used. It is a matter of how it could be misused – and be misused it shall. What “protections” do you propose to prevent that? And who watches the watchers?

ehrichweiss says:

Re: what's the big deal?

“Imagine how many more murderers, rapists and pedafiles would be off the streets if every human being at birth or at driver’s license registration had to submit a DNA sample?”

Imagine how many more innocent people would be off the streets as well. These days it’s EASY to falsify DNA samples, or did you not know that?

Here’s the recipe and there are numerous iterations of it: Find a trash can with emptied cans, bottles, cups, napkins, smoked cigarettes, etc. and dump them in a crime scene. Bingo, now everyone who ever touched that junk is now a suspect in a murder(or whatever) since their DNA is on the junk and the junk is at the scen. And this isn’t a theoretical happening either, it’s happening right now with real thugs and they’re getting away.

Steve says:

The Big Deal

The Big Deal is that it is impossible to find someone to safeguard the system.

Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? (“Who watches the watchers?”)

Through history, anyone given that kind of power has abused it, without exception.
Knowledge is Power.
In handing information over to the Govt, you are handing over power.
And as we know, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Such things as you describe are a gross violation of a person’s privacy.

Cardinal Richelieu understood the value of surveillance when he famously said, “If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.” Watch someone long enough, and you’ll find something to arrest — or just blackmail — with. Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies — whoever they happen to be at the time.

There are so many laws, everyone eventually violates some of them.

Ever copy a page from a book without the authors consent?
Ever discuss the events of a baseball game without the express written consent of major league baseball.?
Ever exceed the speed limit?

With prints and DNA on file, Hundreds of people will have to be questioned by police, and explain their whereabouts, just because the police have a partial match on their DNA/ prints.

The question is not “What do I have to hide?”
The question must be “Why do you need to know?”

Anonymous Coward says:

Somewhere in the middle lies the truth...

I don’t think the government should be compiling information on everywhere we drive or everything we do, but I have to re-emphasize that the problem isn’t the data collection, but the access to the data.

Basically, more data collection can actually be a good thing at times. More data means that individual data points become lost, sort of a needle-in-a-haystack type scenario. The major problem isnt the government filling up hard drives with useless data, but who and how that data can be accessed by someone. If searches of dataabases have to follow the same standards set up to get other warrants for information, then the data is a tool of crime-fighting, not a tool to remove civil rights.

Of course we live in a country with laws to protect privacy, but no one ever guaranteed they were absolute. There are legally permissable times when the government can invade your privacy, but there are spelled out procedures for this to happen (4th amendment dealing with search and seizure, Miranda statute, etc). In short, freedom and privacy are only part of the equation, the other part is how to properly deal with situations in which ones privacy and personal libery can and should be curtailed in the interest of the greater good (for instance criminal investigation). Sure some of use see this as an orwellian thing, but as society moves more and more into a “digital” paradigm, this issue will become more and more pronounced and the reasons to not collect data like this will seem more and more like paranoid anti-government than sound protectionism of civil liberties. With that said I’d much rather know that information like this was being collected, and also know that it’s access is being controlled to a very narrow scope, than to leave government to its own devices and see what it does “under the radar” (remember that NSA phone tapping scandal anyone?).

Transparent government is the goal, not data surpression.

Chris says:

The 4th admendment doesnt exist anymore.

Good day, and welcome to what we now know as the patriot act. Flag anyone as a terroirst, or one who conspires with terrorists, or any other extremist group and you can do very well whatever the hell you please in regard to invading their privacy. Everyone’s always going on about how “we have our rights, etc” well the time has already passed where we’re no longer protected by the constitution. Time and time again some judge will bend over backwards to the whim of someone of high social status, or of politcal regard, and get’s them off the hook. Yet to the commoner we’re slammed with every loop hole of litigation that results in us getting the shaft.

Steve says:

evidence collection

I have to re-emphasize that the problem IS the data collection.

Let me re-phrase, and call it evidence collection, which is what it really is.

The police and/or government should not be collecting evidence against citizens without “probable cause” or at lease “reasonable suspicion”

If the police had a scanner that checked every plate against a live database of stolen vehicles, and beeped only when it got a hit, everything would be fine, and no one would complain. It’s once you start storing locations and plate numbers that you are collecting “evidence”

To re-emphasize again, the police should not be collecting evidence unless there is a suspicion of some crime.

a says:

Force ISP’s to retain search information? I would find it hard to believe that they don’t already retain that type of information and mine it extensively. More like give the govt. access to it when they ask.

How long does Google retain information on its users? Forever. Who owns the content of Gmail? Google.

Companies maintain databases of its customers and are regularly hacked, opening their customers up to identity theft, fraud and many more things.

Are we really that concerned with someone finding out where we have been? Really? Could that type of information come in handy to the right authorities? Of course it could. Should the govt. not utilize technology because of potential abuse? Techdirt can’t believe that, because its not the technology that is dangerous, its the people who use it. Ban the govt. from doing this and you may as well ban Myspace because it enables child abuse, Google because it enables copy write infringement and pretty much any other type of technology. Unless of course you are a hypocrite, then, feel free to go ahead.

Keith says:

Google isn't the government

Ban the govt. from doing this and you may as well ban Myspace because it enables child abuse, Google because it enables copy write infringement and pretty much any other type of technology. Unless of course you are a hypocrite, then, feel free to go ahead.

When Google makes a mistake, they don’t show up with machineguns. They don’t “lose” the evidence that shows their mistake. They don’t have unlimited taxpayer dollars to find a way to get me for SOMETHING, just to justify what they did.

It’s not “hypocrisy,” it’s threat assessment.

JustMatt says:

I'll play Devil's Advocate here

And ask for someone to explain what the privacy violation really is? How is this different than Officer Friendly walking around the neighborhood and seeing that JoeBob is home, and Sally is taking the kids to school and that’s a strange Buick driving around. Certainly a trained observer like a policeman is able to remember these things, and can report on them should he be asked.

Note: I am a fan of citizen privacy rights, but I’m just not seeing the issue here since the data is not even apparently being indexed or cross referenced.

Diorist says:

Re: I'll play Devil's Advocate here

Fundamentally, the difference between data collection and Officer Friendly is the difference between invested, personal observation and impassionate, impersonal analytics.

1. Officer Friendly can’t be compiled, integrated, or mined

2. Officer Friendly is highly localized and his analysis are both time and context sensitive, whereas data is ubiquitous and analyses are only purpose sensitive

3. Officer Friendly’s benevolence is enforced by his/her relationship with people in the neighborhood, whereas a data analyst is subject to no such social norms

License-plate scanning is not limited to static vehicles and is automated. The new printed-aluminum license plates now issued in several states are designed to be scannable. In a couple of years, you’ll probably see scanners on stoplights, along or in highways, in parking lots, in building entrances. Travel patterns can be matched to models based on data points, and suspect matches will get police attention. At what threshold of attention will you scream?

Really, any personal data collection implies a violation of privacy. The question is really whether it is justified, benign, and controlled. In general, it’s safe to assume it’s probably not:

1. Justification: Public authorities generally have no right to monitor citizens without cause or warrant, but they can be granted limited rights under the pretense of public safety.

2. Benignity: Expose enough people to opportunity and someone will misbehave. Recall that 70% of corporate data breaches are perpetrated by internal employees.

3. Control: Data access, retention, and use controls are difficult and expensive to systematically implement at the technology level. Just look at corporate resistance to implementing fairly basic controls for the protection of credit card data, a very limited scope of information. Short of technical controls, that leaves policy controls–essentially the honor system.

Motive, means, and opportunity. Abuse of personal data will happen. A smart driver (and citizen) will make every effort to protect themselves–both from public and private malfeasance.

(FYI: If the “authoritative” violation of privacy isn’t alarming enough, consider that license plate scannability is passive (not active, like RIFD chips). Businesses could do it and market to you, based on the information. “Hi Joe! You don’t know us, but we know you…”)

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