100's of M2M / IoT blog posts.

IoT is powering license-plate readers everywhere … is this a good thing?

by Larry Bellehumeur   |  Nov 08, 2018  

Hello and thanks for reading.

The use of IoT technology to help improve traffic is not only widespread, but for the most part, is considered to be a good thing by the public.  The use of sensors on the roads help to detect unexpected issues, such as traffic jams or bad road conditions.  As well, signs alerting drivers of the length of time to a certain landmark (such as an airport) help everyone’s commute.  Finally, although I am currently leading my wife in the “photo-radar ticket game” by a score of 4-3, even I admit that they can help to reduce speeding in certain areas.

Where the issue comes is when information is if IoT Traffic solutions are also used to gather data that can be used against someone in a criminal matter.  This was recently reported in a Washington Post article, where it was revealed that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) is placing LPR (License Plate Readers) along side road side signs.

This debate comes down to what your expectation of privacy is while you are operating a vehicle on a publicly-funded road …

One argument is always that if you have nothing to hide, why should you care?  To further that argument, many police cruisers are now using OCR (optical character recognition) software to scan license plates at truck stops and in traffic on freeways, so why is that any different?

The other argument, namely from the ACLU, is that the sheer size of the deployments, as well as the lack of transparency about them, makes it likely that the use extends far beyond the scope of catching possible cars involved in the drug trade.  Why wouldn’t this information be able to be used to track “dead-beat dads” who do not pay their child support?  The other argument commonly used is the security of this data, or in other words, could this data be used to help criminals by knowing where a potential victim is?

The reality is that we are constantly being watched, and for the most part, society is safer because of it.  Your credit card activity is monitored by your card issuer … People post (maybe too many) details about much of their life on Social Media … Google tracks all of your web searches …. And the list goes on and on.

I personally don’t see how this is much different.  I think society has long answered the question of whether we are willing to trade away privacy for convenience …

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