License plate data lets cops spy on US drivers at record rates

Gigaom

A new investigation shows the scale of surveillance on U.S. highways is more extensive than many previously imagined, thanks to a license plate database that allows federal and local law enforcement to watch cars and even drivers in real time.

According to documents reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, the database was created by the Drug Enforcement Administration to track cartel activity, but it soon came to comprise millions of records that are regularly shared with police forces across the country:

The Justice Department has been building a national database to track in real time the movement of vehicles around the U.S., a secret domestic intelligence-gathering program that scans and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists […]

The DEA program collects data about vehicle movements, including time, direction and location, from high-tech cameras placed strategically on major highways. Many devices also record visual images of drivers and passengers, which are sometimes clear…

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