Ars Technica has successfully completed a public records request that allowed them to acquire 4.6 million records from the Oakland Police Department’s automated License Plate Reader (LPR) system. Using their custom built visualization tool, they are able to extrapolate a shocking amount of information about the travel patterns of individual vehicles.
For instance, during a meeting with an Oakland city council member, Ars was able to accurately guess the block where the council member lives after less than a minute of research using his license plate data. Similarly, while “working” at an Oakland bar mere blocks from Oakland police headquarters, we ran a plate from a car parked in the bar’s driveway through our tool. The plate had been read 48 times over two years in two small clusters: one near the bar and a much larger cluster 24 blocks north in a residential area—likely the driver’s home.
This is the price we pay for enabling government surveillance in any form.