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Your Car Could Soon Be in Homeland Security's National License Plate Tracking System


Tracking planned to start May 1, 2014.

tracking system

The Department of Homeland Security is taking bids for a new tracking system that will take pictures of your vehicle and track your movements even if you aren't suspected of a crime.

The department published a solicitation notice this week to establish a national license plate recognition service, and plans to hire a private company to create the tracking system.

The proposed tracking system will snap pictures of license plates on passing vehicles without the owner's knowledge. The proposed tracking system will snap pictures of license plates on passing vehicles without the owner's knowledge. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Homeland Security's vision for the license plate database, which would draw data from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their path, is to help catch fugitive illegal immigrants, according to the Washington Post. But the database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and could be shared with other law enforcement agencies, raising concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized.

DHS also wants police to have 24/7 access to the database on their smartphones.

"Officers should be able to query the [national license plate recognition] database with license plate numbers based on investigative leads to determine where and when the vehicle has traveled. This information will assist in locating criminal aliens and absconders, and will enhance officer safety by enabling arrests to occur away from a subject’s residence," the DHS solicitation notice reads.

"The database should track vehicle license plate numbers that pass through cameras or are voluntarily entered into the system from a variety of sources (access control systems, asset recovery specialists, etc.) and uploaded to share with law enforcement," it states.

fejwio The database will be populated by pictures taken either by a person or pre-positioned camera then uploaded to a nationwide tracking system. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

The details in the solicitation notice get interesting as it describes the specific utility DHS seeks from the program:

The NLPR data service shall provide a “Target Vehicle” “Hot-List” upload feature that will allow a minimum of 5,000 license plate records to be uploaded in batch from a single comma separated variable (CSV) file with data fields to include, as a minimum but not limited to, the following: Plate number; State of Registration; Vehicle Year, Make, Model & Color; at least 255 words for open text record comments.

The Government would prefer the ability of the NLPR data service to allow communication between users (anonymously, via alias, or with full identity) to share information amongst the User group based on specific “Hot-List” “Target Vehicle” records.

The Department of Homeland Security hopes to see the database up and running by May 1, according to the proposed contract schedule.

(H/T: Washington Post)

Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter. 

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