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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 7, 2013 at 11:35 AM

Cop cameras recording license plates

Surveillance, database are disturbing

Seattle Police Department's Cregan Newhouse patrols the streets in Beacon Hill, looking for stolen cars and vehicles that are chronically parked illegally. Newhouse is one of several parking enforcement officers who use automated license plate readers to identify cars. [Erika Schultz, The Seattle Times.]

Seattle Police Department’s Cregan Newhouse patrols the streets in Beacon Hill, looking for stolen cars and vehicles that are chronically parked illegally. Newhouse is one of several parking enforcement officers who use automated license plate readers to identify cars. [Erika Schultz, The Seattle Times.]

The article on the police surveillance cameras was disturbing on many levels. [“Cop cameras capture your license plates,” page one, Aug. 4.]

If the system can identify the tags of stolen cars, parking-ticket scofflaws and the cars of any other targeted persons of interest instantly, why is it necessary to store this information at all?

As for the appeals, keeping a dedicated 90-day database of the 3,768 parking violations and a stolen-car database of the 426 stolen cars might be understandable. However, tracking and storing the daily movements of millions of innocent Seattle visitors and residents just because the police have the desire and the ability is unsettling.

Aside from the obvious Orwellian concerns, this trove of “secure” data is also a commercial gold mine, which could allow businesses, and others, to be able to identify not only who is parked in their lot, but when and how often.

Is this data being compiled and sold as a means of generating revenue? I don’t have any outstanding tickets, nor have I stolen anything. Why am I being tracked and stored in this database?

Ken Bedat, Olympia

Comments | Topics: database, license plates, Seattle Police Department

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