State of Texas in United States is using License Plate Readers for a new cause these days. The state has passed a law just last year ago allowing police departments to install credit card readers in squad cars. These cars are quipped with LPR cameras and software which are integrated with bank credit card databases. The idea was to enable cops to collect unpaid credit card debts along with pending court fines instead of tracking and arresting people for unpaid debts.
From 2016, the state’s law enforcement forces are making the rules more stringent and have extended the system support to collect credit card debts. For this the Police of Kyle, Texas, are now automating the identification of court fines deadbeats using scanners that automatically read and process all visible license plates, according to a report on the Electronic Frontier Foundation(EFF) website.
The process of finding the defaulters is taking place in the following way- The LPRs have access to a database of license plate data and sophisticated software tools, are provided to the police by a company called Vigilant Solutions. As the service is chargeable, the defaulters who are caught on the highways and in the towns have to pay an extra 25% of fine, in addition to the court fine, all of which goes to Vigilant, a private company.
As the police drive around the scanner reads license plates and pings an alert when it locates the vehicle of a court fine scofflaw, irrespective of the car being in motion or at rest (parked status). The police ask the occupants to either pay the fine or go to the jail on the spot.
The court fine is diverted to the National Financial database. The equipment installation is being laid in the police squad cars for free by the company. So, the burden of this arrangement is being pushed onto the defaulters.
If the vehicle is driverless, then the police place the notice on the windshield that’s like a ticket, which asks to go to the Vigilant Solutions website and pay the fine. In some cases, if the fine is heavy, then they put an aluminum lock on the car tires, making the vehicle motionless.
Meanwhile, the police are constantly scanning for plates. All license plates, not just the ones flagged as belonging to a scofflaw, are tagged with location, time and other data, and all that data is fed back into the Vigilant database.
This includes cars in traffic and also unoccupied parked cars. As the EFF points out, “the information can reveal personal information, such as where you go to church, what doctors you visit, and where you sleep at night.”—that’s equal to spying.
Both the court and the police are funneling private and personal data on citizens to a private company, which is then using that data to get paid, riding on the back of court fines and enforced and collected by the police.
Currently, a certain section of populace is screeching against this law as a private company is using taxpayer-funded government agencies to harvest private data about the public and is getting paid to do it.
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