from the can't-spell-'stupid'-with-an-Alphabet dept
Here's the sort of fun stuff law enforcement gets up to when it thinks no one's paying attention. It all started with Matt Blaze tweeting out a photo of a rather suspicious-looking Google Maps vehicle.
WTF? Pennsylvania State Police license plate reader SUV camouflaged as Google Street View vehicle. pic.twitter.com/0z4yo2rVoR— matt blaze (@mattblaze) May 11, 2016
Blaze also spotted a Pennsylvania State Police parking placard on the dash.
The Pennsylvania State Police quickly denied the vehicle belonged to it. But it did, at least, (sort of) confirm the cameras were license plate readers.
Matt, this is not a PSP vehicle. If this is LPR technology, other agencies and companies might make use of it.Philadelphia resident/investigative reporter Dustin Slaughter tracked down the vehicle and shot photos of the parking placard, along with the other side of the vehicle, confirming the bogus Google Maps window stickers were on both sides of the vehicle.
The city's fleet manager denied the vehicle belonged to the State Police. However, he did not clarify which agency the faux Google vehicle belonged to.
“All city vehicles such as police, fire, streets etc.…are registered to the city. Quasi [public] agencies like PPA, Housing Authority, PGW and School District are registered to their respective agencies,” fleet manager Christopher Cocci wrote in an email to Motherboard after reviewing photos of the vehicle.Google also denied any involvement.
“We can confirm that this is not a Google Maps car, and that we are currently looking into the matter,” Google spokesperson Susan Cadrecha wrote.Google tends to use vehicles with lower profiles, better gas mileage, and very distinctive branding/camera setups.
A few hours later, another Philadelphia law enforcement agency stepped forward to take credit for the deceptive vehicle.
The Philadelphia Police Department admitted today that a mysterious unmarked license plate surveillance truck disguised as a Google Maps vehicle, which Motherboard first reported on this morning, is its own.Well, we have a WHO. What we don't have is a WHY. Of what possible use was this crappy, little fakeout? Anyone stupid enough to believe a hulking SUV with a city parking permit was a Google Maps vehicle is also too stupid to know what the cameras mounted on it are actually used for. For everyone else above that level, the easiest conclusion to draw is that the Philly police are stupid enough to think this would work. If so, they've shorted the wrong set of collective IQ.
In an emailed statement, a department spokesperson confirmed:
“We have been informed that this unmarked vehicle belongs to the police department; however, the placing of any particular decal on the vehicle was not approved through any chain of command. With that being said, once this was brought to our attention, it was ordered that the decals be removed immediately.”
The spokesperson also claimed that an inquiry is forthcoming.
A more benign explanation is also possible, though. It could have just been a poorly thought out attempt at a joke. Who sports more cameras and hoovers up more photos than Google's mapping vehicles? This may have just been a few cops poking fun at themselves, co-opting Big Data's look for their Big Brother plate scanning: the Google Maps of law enforcement, making sure no obscure side road goes "unmapped."