Carlsbad Police Department’s License Plate Reading Camera Data Released By EFF

by The Editors on November 15, 2018

Welcome to Carlsbad, allow us to introduce you to the Carlsbad Police officer who is riding-a-long with you every time you get in your car. That’s right, each time you drive in Carlsbad, the Carlsbad Police Department puts a digital tail on you thanks to a network of 51 (soon to be 86) license plate reading cameras located at intersections all over the City. With these cameras the Carlsbad Police department is able to track your car in real time where ever you travel in Carlsbad.

Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and MuckRock have released a data set that allows all of us to see how many plates are being scanned in Carlsbad, how many other agencies the Carlsbad Police Department is sharing their plates scans with, and how many times a plate they’re actually looking for has come up in the scanning.

To make it easier here are the numbers: in 2016-17 Carlsbad Police scanned (and stored) at least 8,363,866 plates and hit on 2,358 that they were actually looking for. They shared their scanned plate data with 198 other agencies. These numbers are likely only a portion of those scanned as the data is not complete in Carlsbad’s case.

 Here’s how the EFF pitches this data dump:

We have released records obtained from 200 agencies, accounting for more than 2.5 -billion license plate scans in 2016 and 2017. This data is collected regardless of whether the vehicle or its owner or driver are suspected of being involved in a crime. In fact, the information shows that 99.5% of the license plates scanned were not under suspicion at the time the vehicles’ plates were collected. . . On average, agencies are sharing data with a minimum of 160 other agencies through Vigilant Solutions’ LEARN system, though many agencies are sharing data with over 800 separate entities.

We are living in a surveillance state, but it’s still shocking to see it spelled out on easy to read charts. For all the details for Carlsbad and 199 other agencies and how they use license plate reading cameras, please click the link.

[Link: Automated Licese Plate Reader Dataset]

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