DEA to Use Speed Signs to Read License Plates

The U.S. Drug Enforcement administration is buying up mobile speed signs that also capture your license plate data.

Federal contracting data shows the DEA has hired a pair of small shops to conceal license plate readers within the signs.  Privacy advocates say it poses all sorts of problems.

“This data is being collected on a massive scale and shared massive scale,as well as being stored sometimes indefinitely by the agencies collecting it,” says Dave Maass, senior investigative researcher for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“This data can be highly revealing,” he says.  “It can show where you sleep at night.  It might show what doctors' offices you visit.  It might show where you work, or where you worship.  All that kind of information is the sort of thing that can be used against you in an improper fashion.”

Maass says public records revealed that of 22 million license plates recorded in Austin last year, only 3,200 – or 0.01% – were linked to alleged criminal activity.

“It's just sitting there in case they want to invade your private life,”says Maass.  “And the opportunity for rogue police officers to spy on their ex-spouses or people they have a personal grudge against is huge.”

Maass says unfortunately, there's not much you can do about any of it. Houston Police in years past, were using license plate scanners,claiming roads are a public right-of-way and the plate itself is issued by a government agency.

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