Monday, November 28, 2011

License Plate Readers - Another Part of the Location-Privacy Debate

On November 19th, the Washington Post ran an article by and , concerning the use of automatic number plate recognition (license plate readers) by police in the District.  Here's the lead into that article:

"An armed robber burst into a Northeast Washington market, scuffled with the cashier, and then shot him and the clerk’s father, who also owned the store. The killer sped off in a silver Pontiac, but a witness was able to write down the license plate number.

Police figured out the name of the suspect very quickly. But locating and arresting him took a little-known investigative tool: a vast system that tracks the comings and goings of anyone driving around the District.

Scores of cameras across the city capture 1,800 images a minute and download the information into a rapidly expanding archive that can pinpoint people’s movements all over town."  Go here to read more.

Comment: As with all remote sensing systems, the data stream coming in from them is meaningless unless there is a way to relate that information to location. Although police have long been able to create that understanding by using banks of TV's slaved to remote camera known locations, the growing number and types of sensors leave only one real answer going forward: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) serving as the situational awareness fusion platform.  Consequently, geospatial information technologies sit smack dab in the middle of this "good-versus-bad uses" discussion as related in the closing section of the article.

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