3 On Your Side: Cameras Capturing Plates Plus Location

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jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It seems that everywhere you turn there’s a camera capturing your every move, from security cameras when we’re shopping to red light cameras when we’re driving. 3 On Your Side consumer reporter Jim Donovan finds there are other cameras that you may not be aware of.

It’s possible that information about where you’re going and places you stop is being recorded and saved, too. Some say it’s a valuable tool for finding criminals and even people who don’t pay their car payments.

By simply passing vehicles on a highway, a city street or in a parking lot, car mounted cameras can record up to 3,500 license plates a minute.

A computer then saves and “tags” the plate picture with the date, time and location it was taken.

The information is used by private companies, car repossession agents, and dozens of law enforcement agencies across the country.

“It’s perfectly legal. It’s not infringing on anyone’s rights,” says Scott Jackson, with MV TRAC.

MV TRAC is a leading plate recognition system seller and maintains a large national license plate photo database.

“There’s no real concern for privacy unless you’ve done something wrong. If you’ve done something wrong –you’re a murderer, if you are a child abductor, if you’ve committed a crime or if you haven’t made your car payments in a long time –then that’s a permissible purpose as well,” says Jackson.

Privacy advocates argue the potential for misuse or unintended use of the data is extraordinarily high, but law enforcement experts say the information is kept secure.

“We don’t know of a single instance where automated license plate recognition data has been misused or abused,’ says David Roberts, with the International Association of Police Chiefs.

MV TRAC says it doesn’t sell its plate data to the general public or to marketing firms and that only police and car repossession companies who’ve passed an in-depth background check can access that database. But it goes to show you that no matter where you go, big brother is watching.

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