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April 11, 2016 - 8:47am

Today's Poll: Should private companies be allowed to use license plate cameras?

posted by Howard B. Owens in polls.
George Richardson
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A corporate trickle down scheme where a city gives 80% of the money to the scammers and handles all costs of enforcement. The citizens will resent and then hate any foolish community law enforcement agency that gets duped and later sued for accepting this 1984 Big Brother scam. Kyle, Texas said yes this year and then Kyle,Texas said no this year when the shit hit the fan and a mama cried, in the ghetto.
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/02/texas-city-rescinds-license-plate-...

Ed Hartgrove
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Howard. Now that the readers here have had almost 16 hours (by 12:15 A.M. today, Tuesday) to vote/comment on this poll, I'd love to hear your take on it.

What a great poll question (Should private companies be allowed to use license plate cameras?)

Again, I was/am a little dismayed that 78% of the "voters" voted Yes to answer the poll question. Dismayed , but, as I said in a previous comment, not shocked.

What does shock me is that people are willing to give up their rights so easily. Now, I (kind of) understand what they are thinking. But, I don't believe they are thinking of what their answer entails.

I was hoping that someone would have the cojones to say WHY they were against a private company from recording license plate numbers. Guess I should have known better.

I will throw it out there. To the people that voted Yes, WHY?
Do you not think that you can walk down the street and video record whatever you see? If you were downtown recording a "street juggler", do you mean to tell me that you wouldn't have a problem with someone coming up to you and telling you to delete your video? How about if, while you were recording, a car drove by? Can you HONESTLY say that the driver of that car has a right to tell you to delete his car (and/or) license plate image from the video (or even a photograph) from your camera?

By answering YES to the poll question, that's basically what you are saying. The companies that are using LPR's are doing nothing illegal. They have the same rights as you do to record ANYTHING that can be seen in public.

Let's say you were out in your front yard, and you were videotaping your child's first walking steps. Better hope nobody is driving by at that time. They might tell you to delete it, because their car was in view. Tell me. Does that even sound reasonable?

Sorry people, but the chances of MOST people erasing ANY video, just because you want them to, is slim-to-none. I certainly can't answer for everyone, but, it'd be a cold day in (you know where) before I would delete my pictures. If you don't want to be caught on camera, stay inside your GD house.

Every time you walk downtown, you're being recorded. Try walking in ANY store downtown, and tell THEM to delete their video. Let me know how that works out for you.

And, if there's any confusion about who I'm addressing this to, it's to ewe, and ewe, and ewe, and even ewe over there.

I can only hope that this is a "local" (Batavia area) thought process (a mis-placed hope, I'm thinking).

The people that want to take away the right to record in public deserve THEIR loss of rights. Just don't try taking mine! It seems to me that NYer's don't mind letting their rights dribble away. Pretty soon, NY will be known as the "Home of the Mutes". When the government tells you that you no longer have the right to speak, don't be too surprised.

And, finally, for all the ewe's out there, might I suggest one of the following: (they're listed under "Sheeple Plates")
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFrze9eY9o0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRcFiWnh7vI

Ed Hartgrove
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Oops! I meant to say I was dismayed to see that 78% of the people voted No (not yes) to the poll question. And, I did it more than once.

As I don't have the option of editing my comment, this'll have to suffice.

Howard B. Owens
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Ed, I think people object to this for the same reason they object to third-party ad tracking. When you really look at it, there's no real harm in it, but it is a bit creepy.

Ed Hartgrove
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Uh-h-h.... OK, Howard. Honestly, "creepy" probably would've been somewhere around my 30th thought, if I even thought of it by then.
But, then, the poll said I think outside of the box. Which I take as a compliment.

Since I retired, I (sometimes) almost find myself relating to the Styx song "Too much time on my hands". I have watched, literally, tens-of-thousands of Youtube videos. Amongst them, are multiple hundreds, in which people have been yelled at, assaulted, detained and arrested, for doing nothing but recording in public. I, personally, find that disgusting. Here's a short clip of what I mean:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC-iCIzWfDw
(Notice, in the beginning, a woman exits her car, straddling the crosswalk (ILLEGAL), gets out in the middle of traffic (dangerous), and puts her face squarely in the camera's view (STUPID), to confront a guy with a camera. Then, a guy driving down the street makes an illegal U-turn, parks his vehicle, gets out and approachs the cameraman, telling him to "take that out of my face"). Then, he makes ANOTHER illegal U-turn when he leaves, stops in the MIDDLE of the street (ILLEGAL), rolls through the intersection without stopping (ILLEGAL), exits his vehicle, and does the same thing (take pictures) that he confronted the people about. Hilarious!! NEITHER of those people would've been in the video, if they had just stayed in their cars. Ya almost have to wonder, "Were they really worried about their faces being on video, or, were they HOPING that they were"?

Being that the poll was responded to by less than 2000 people, it's only a guess, but, I'm wondering if any of them have the "app" on their cellphone that allows them to scan a product's barcode/QR code - then find out if the product is available at a cheaper price. Oh yeah. People like THAT "app". And, for good reason. But, do they realize that companies now are able to monitor when the cellphone passes by, say, the laundry detergent aisle, the cellphone can send a message that Fab is on sale this week? (Do they still make Fab?)

They might as well get used to it. Cameras are everywhere. Cellphone cameras, video cameras, home security cameras, dashboard cameras, "photo-journalist" cameras (yes, a small dig there, Howard), and the ever growing amount of surveillance cameras. My ex-father-in-law was a master-foreman of a crew that traveled around the country, re-modeling stores, like Ames, K-mart, etc. This was 25 years ago. He was telling me one day, "You know that some of the mannequins in the stores now have surveillance cameras built right into their eyes, don't you?"

As Allen Funt used to say, "Smile! You're on candid camera! " And, as Jerry Seinfeld found out, if you're gonna pick your nose, DON'T do it at a stoplight!

On a personal note, Howard. Have you ever had someone ask/tell you to delete your footage? If so, how did you handle it? Just curious!

Julie Morales
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George: Vigilant has branched out to commercial use; probably much more profitable to operate insidiously than blatantly nickel and diming law enforcement agencies. They obviously think people are idiots.

Buffalo News: License plate camera data’s private use raises questions

“The companies that sell the technology and store the data argue, among other things, that it is lawful to photograph in public, and plate readers do everything a simple camera does, albeit far more quickly.”

That is a lie.

A simple camera takes a picture. That’s all. It doesn’t “collect data.” If all the scanner does is take a simple picture, why would people pay thousands of dollars for the scanners, and others pay the “right price” for the data?

“The companies are paid for the data they gather…”

What data? Why? If all it does is take a picture like a “simple camera,” what is there to buy and sell?

“….the data collected by law enforcement will never be shared with private commercial interests. Digital Recognition Network’s commercially collected data is different. The company makes that available to police agencies.”

They are mining data that is unavailable to law enforcement scanners.

When they make the commercially collected data available to police agencies, is that data then protected by the federal Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act?

“The cameras also store every plate in a vast database, just like the cameras do for police agencies. But unlike the police agencies’ data, privately held data is sold for the right price.”

This is what a “simple camera” does?

I would like to know just what data is being mined and “stored in a vast database”; why it is so valuable; what, exactly, is the “right price;” and who the heck is paying it so I can boycott them (and their many DBAs). This article goes round and round to nowhere.

Ed Hartgrove: I didn’t vote in the poll but would have voted no. I didn’t realize a person would require “cojones” to post an opinion that differs from yours; here is mine.

This is not about taking a simple picture.

Personally I am against publishing pictures of minors without a parent’s consent.

Ed Hartgrove
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Julie. Let me address your last sentence, first. So, let me be clear on your statement. Are you saying that when the Stafford Fire Department is having their parade (of course, not THIS year), you would expect Howard, or a Daily News photographer, to ask each and every adult if their precious one's picture can be "published"? Even the ones that are somewhat in the background? I realize that Howard doesn't have much to do (sorry I threw you under the bus there, Howard), but, I think that'd almost be IMPOSSIBLE. The photographer would have to move at pretty much the "speed of light" to realize (a) who was and who wasn't in the viewfinder, (b) catch them before they moved around the scene, (c) find the "parents", and (d) get their consent.

As for you questions about the License Plate Readers, if I can, I'll try to answer your questions.

From http://elsag.com/licenseplatereader.htm
"An Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) is an image-processing technology used to identify vehicles by their license plates.

It is a special form of OCR (Optical Character Recognition) where algorithms are employed to transform the pixels of the digital image into the text of the number plate. Systems commonly use infrared lighting to allow the camera to take the picture at any time of day."

"License plate recognition systems utilize algorithms in order to identify a license plate, take a clear image, translate its characters and identify the state that issued the plate. The better the algorithms, the more accurate the information."

"Generally speaking, License Plate Readers (LPRs) can record plates at about one per second at speeds of up to 100 MPH and they often utilize infrared cameras for clarity and to facilitate reading at any time of day or night. The data collected can either be processed in real-time, at the site of the read, or it can be transmitted to remote center and processed at a later time."

Try using your $800 Nikon at 100 MPH, pass several cars, and see how many readable license plate numbers you can make out, Julie.

The only "data" that the LPR's cameras are collecting is "image data" (aka, a picture).

Again, you asked, "What data? Why? If all it does is take a picture like a “simple camera,” what is there to buy and sell?" The "data" is the license plate number.

Then, you wrote, "They are mining data that is unavailable to law enforcement scanners."
Well, possibly!

Please, let me "make up" a scenario where your statement might happen.

Let's say the Batavia Police Dept. has a fairly regular "routine" of driving down Woodcrest Drive (off Naramore) three times a day - between 7 and 8 AM, between 5 and 6 PM, and again, between 11 PM and midnight. Now, suppose someone who's driving a stolen vehicle is dating a 'girl" that lives on Woodcrest Drive. But, the only time the girl's parents are away is during the working hours of 9 AM and 5 PM. So the car thief is only over there between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM. How are the cops ever gonna "record" the license plate number, if their time on that street doesn't coincide with when the vehicle is there?

But, in comes the "repo" man. He's looking for a completely different car than the "stolen" one. And, the car he IS looking for belongs to someone that is behind in their payments. While he's driving down Woodcrest, he doesn't find his car that is being "repo-ed", but, the LPR on his tow truck catches and records the plate from the "stolen" vehicle. When the repo man/woman uploads the camera's images to the "database", the "database" automatically notifies the Batavia Police Dept. that a vehicle listed on the "stolen vehicle" list was photographed at 1 o'clock in the afternoon, at such-and-such an address.

See, the "info" might not really be unavailable to police, per se. But, it was only because they were never in a certain place at a certain time. Had they changed the time-factor of their Woodcrest Drive tour, their OWN LPR might've caught the stolen vehicle.

Have a great evening, Julie!

david spaulding
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imo it is wrong for any private enterprise to gather private information about me from scanning my license plate. the only reason I have a license plate on my car is for law enforcement use only. I have never given the DMV permission to share any information about myself. if personal information can be obtained by a private enterprise via a license plate then that information should be made public and easily accessible by the general public via a DMV website. how would that go over?.i want to find out where you live, for whatever reason, and all I have to do is enter your plate number via a website and there it is............ I too am against publishing minor's photos with out parental permission........

Howard B. Owens
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Ed, I take seriously my right to photograph anything I can see from a spot open to the public (that, btw, doesn't mean "public property," but open to the public (including private property).

I've watched many of those same videos.

Nobody has asked me to delete photos or erase my SD card. Fortunately, local law enforcement understands this law.

I've had people drive by accident scenes and tell me to mind my own business. Of course, they don't hear me yell back, "this is my business," and I've also had many people drive by accidents and yell, "Howard, you're a rock star," so it all evens out.

I do take pictures of children in public and I don't ask permission. Never have, never will. However, if a parent or guardian makes a legitimate case for why the picture shouldn't be published I will (and have) respected that request (a blanket, "you can't publish it" won't cover it).

At accident and fires, It can be tricky. As a photojournalist, you want that emotional, tell-a-story shot, but you also want to respect people's sense of space. I've also learned that people who are upset at a scene later appreciate that somebody documented an important part of their family's history.

And most parents are as proud as all get out when their child's picture hits the front page of the The Batavian.

Ed Hartgrove
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Well, David. As you know, you certainly have a right to your opinion.

As for your license plate number being "private", sorry. It's only as private as you wish to keep it. If, at the time of issue, you hid the number from people standing in the DMV line, and never put the plate in public view, then, yes, it's still "private".

Once you attach it to your vehicle, and have your vehicle in a position where "other people" can see it, it takes on the characteristics of "not so private".

The DMV isn't sharing info with private enterprises, David. And, private companies aren't gathering "private" information about you, either. In fact, they aren't gathering info about YOU at all. They are only reporting that said license plate was recorded at such-and-such a place at such-and-such a time. They aren't reporting/sharing data that says David was driving the car, or, David was in the car, or even that David left his car in such-and-such a place. Your name (I'm assuming) isn't known by these private enterprises.

Law enforcement, on the other hand, is probably a different matter. When they "run" your plate number, pretty much everything you did wrong (that the "authorities" are aware of) is liable to be aired. (A couple years ago, I used to listen to the Cleveland, OH police dispatcher. It always amazed me, when I'd hear them run some driver that'd been pulled over. The cop would read the unwitting driver's full name, address, date-of-birth and social security number. And, here I was in Florida, listening to it. And, probably thousands of other people, too). Cleveland dispatch stopped working (on Tunein radio, anyways) about a year ago.

Ed Hartgrove
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Thanks, Howard. I kinda figured that would be your answer on how you pursued you career.

And, yes, you are fortunate that local law enforcement understands this law. As I said, I've seen people detained and/or arrested for doing nothing more than recording something. There's more than one video of both "national" and "local" TV crews (let alone, a "common" citizen) being detained, arrested, and even injured by law enforcement for it.

I think one of my "favorites" is a guy in Jacksonville, FL. He was filming the Jacksonville "skyline". From the public sidewalk. At first, the videographer, Jeff Gray, has a couple security guards come out and tell him that he can be arrested for recrding the building.

Eventually, the security guards call the Jacksonville police. One shows up in a car. Before they're done, two more city cops show up on bicycles.

At first, the guy with the car tells Jeff he's not doing anything wrong (which Jeff already knew). Then the cop gets "butt-hurt" because Jeff is recording him. He threatens Jeff with arrest for not producing his ID. That's a tricky one here in FL. Although we're considered a stop-and-identify state, from what I've been able to ascertain, if you're not doing anything illegal, and the cop can't articulate a "probable cause", you don't have to provide ID. I've seen enough of Jeff's videos. There are times when he'll push the matter. I guess it depends on whether he's got a couple of "off" days that he can spend in the "clinker".

In the end, the cop runs his name, gives Jeff back his ID, and leaves. I'm guessing that the cop knew damn well no law was being broken. But, he got butt hurt, and wanted to show Jeff "who the boss is".

I've seen countless videos where the cop doesn't really care if someone's guilty or not. The cops know that, 95-out-of-100 times, NOTHING negative is gonna happen to them. And, if it does, the police chief usually says, "It's a personnel matter. We'll handle it, internally!". Which more than likely means, "The drinks are on so-and-so tonight, 'cause he made us look bad, today. EVERYBODY DRINK UP!".

Things are SLOWLY changing, though. More and more people are capturing, not only the good, but, the bad also, with their cameras. For a while, people were claiming (and stiil do some, today, but not as much), that their videos were deleted from their cameras. Nowadays, a lot of videographers are using "apps" like Ustream, Livestream and Bambuser. These apps go to the "cloud", so nothing that happened (up until the phone/camera was grabbed/turned off) can be deleted.

C. M. Barons
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Tim Miller
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It's legal to record folks in public. You cannot use their image for profit without their consent (journalism being an exception - so you are safe, Howard!). The plate readers are not catching individuals' images, just plate numbers, so there's no issue of a persons image being used for profit. In fact, the plate doesn't belong to the individual, it belongs to the state.

"Creepy" is an excellent way to describe these things, though. I won't be smiling for the camera. However, the security cameras on my townhouse pick up people walking and driving by who are not stopping by my house. Of course, I've never sold any of those pics for profit, and I made sure that when I installed them they did not record any private areas of my community - nobody has to worry about being recorded walking in front of their windows.

Howard B. Owens
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Tim, journalism and artistic work are protected under NY law. Using a photo that shows a face for marketing purposes is a misdemeanor. One of the interesting things that comes up once in a while is some entity or other wants to use a picture I've taken in a market piece and I'm like, "sorry, I don't have a photo release." (since I'm not required when taking pictures for news to get a release, I never do, some marketers are surprised by this) That usually ends it, but at least once, the agency was able to identify the folks in the photo (being local is a great thing) and secure a release.

Ed Hartgrove
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Howard. I'm not sure if you would happen to know the answer to this, but I was just wondering.

You stated that, "Using a photo that shows a face for marketing purposes is a misdemeanor."

When you consider the multiple 100's of millions of Youtube videos, and the incomputable amount of individuals pictured in those videos, would you venture a guess as to why there aren't 10's of millions of lawsuits? Are they, possibly, covered under the "journalism and artistic work" safety net?

Just curious.

Howard B. Owens
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Not sure which videos you're talking about, soo.....

However, at my previous employer, we had one of our journalists at a small paper in New England shoot a video of an event at a college campus and a student complained to YouTube about being shown in the video and YT took it down, no appeal, no recourse, nothing we could do about it, and it was clearly a legitimate journalistic video.

One of the dangers of using other providers as your publishing platform.

Ed Hartgrove
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OK. Thanks! Just wondering.

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