February 6, 2015 -
Following last week’s unveiling that Drug Enforcement Agency has been using license plate readers to collect data for a large database of drivers’ movements, new documents have now surfaced that prove that the DEA is also photographing millions of people inside of their cars, according to a report by Sputnik News.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the American Civil Liberties Union has obtained new documents that show that the DEA has been photographing vehicle occupants and storing these images in a database related to its license plate-tracking program.
Although automated license plate scanners (ALPRs) have been used to track vehicle movement since 2008, particularly along the US-Mexico border, these new scanners are being used to also record images of the people inside the vehicle – some of which are clear enough for investors to confirm identities.
“Occupant photos are not an occasional, accidental byproduct of the technology, but one that is intentionally cultivated,” said the ACLU, adding that the technology contradicts law enforcement’s claims that the program is not in violation of privacy laws.
The advancement of facial recognition technology is only making the situation worse, as Vigilant Solutions — one of the main providers of ALPRs — recently developed an app that integrates facial recognition into the license plate readers.
“Tracking movement and saving individuals’ photos is particularly worrisome if the DEA is targeting First Amendment-protected activity,” the ACLU said. “…An automatic license plate reader cannot distinguish between people transporting illegal guns and those transporting legal guns, or no guns at all.”
The DEA said the program is necessary to fight drug trafficking and asset forfeiture, as well as contributes to the Amber Alert system in helping to locate missing children.
However, many are greatly opposed to federal agencies using the technology and collecting data for a database to track the movements of citizens.
Senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy recently wrote a letter to outgoing US Attorney General Eric Holder that argued that “government programs that track citizens’ movements, see inside homes and collect data from the phones of innocent Americans raise serious privacy concerns.”