Sparking Far-Reaching Rights Concerns, ICE Now Has Powerful Ability to Track License Plates Nationwide

September 25, 2020 0 By HearthstoneYarns

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) now has access to a nationwide license plate recognition database—a trove of billions of records that’s growing by the day.

The development, first reported by The Verge on Friday, sparks civil liberties concerns and comes as the federal agency appears to be ramping up its efforts to round up immigrants.

“Are we as a society, out of our desire to find those people, willing to let our government create an infrastructure that will track all of us?”The database is not one built by ICE itself but by Vigilant Solutions, the reporting continues. A contract was awarded last month, according to documents posted online, but “comes after years of internal lobbying by the agency.”

Vigilant Solutions says its license plate recognition tool can be used in several ways, including getting alerts when a specific plate—or a batch of up to 2,500 license plates—is seen; obtaining historical data on a plate’s locations; and by looking up an address of a crime to see what vehicles may have been in the vicinity.

As DHS notes in a privacy update (pdf) posted days after the contract was awarded, Vigilant’s data comes “from at least 25 states and 24 of the top 30 most populous metropolitan statistical areas within the United States,” and is captured via “toll road cameras, parking lot cameras, vehicle repossession companies, and law enforcement agencies.”