California malls are sharing license plate tracking data with ICE | DAPULSE
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California malls are sharing license plate tracking data with ICE

A chain of California shopping centers is sharing its license plate reader data with a well-known U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contractor, giving that agency the ability to track license plate numbers it captures in near real-time.

A report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation revealed that real estate group Irvine Company shares that data with Vigilant Solutions, a private surveillance tech company that sells automated license plate recognition (ALPR) equipment to law enforcement and government agencies. Irvine Company owns nearly 50 shopping centers across California with locations in Irvine, La Jolla, Newport Beach, Redwood City, San Jose, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale. ICE finalized its contract with Vigilant Solutions in January of this year.

EFF investigative researcher Dave Maass discovered Irvine Company’s data-sharing activities in a page detailing its ALPR policy, a disclosure required by California law. Ironically, while Irvine Company’s ALPR usage and privacy policy does describe its own practice of deleting the license data it collects once transmitted, it admits that it does in fact transmit all of it straight to Vigilant Solutions, which has no such qualms.

As Vigilant describes, the key offering in its “advanced suite” of license reading tech is unfettered access to a massive trove of license plate data:

A hallmark of Vigilant’s solution, the ability for agencies to share real-time data nationwide amongst over 1,000 agencies and tap into our exclusive commercial LPR database of over 5 billion vehicle detections, sets our platform apart.

Irvine Company is only one example of this kind of data sharing, but it illustrates the ubiquity of the kind of privately owned modern surveillance technology at the fingertips of anyone willing to pay for it. While we’re likely to see more state-level legal challenges to license plate tracking technology, for now the powerful pairing of license plate numbers and location data is mostly fair game for anyone who wants to make money off collecting and aggregating it.

DAPULSE TECHNOLOGY

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