License-plate reading in Ohio questioned
In the same vein as the Vancouver article I linked to earlier today, here's a piece from a Dayton, Ohio, paper about the use of license-plate-reading cameras by the cops. I think this is fairly well done, actually, exploring the concerns that exist out there and explaining well how the technology will be used. But, oh, how I hate the lede (that's journalism spelling there):
Are they cutting-edge tools in the war on crime and terrorism? Big Brother in a box? Or maybe a little of both?Gah! Drivel! "Big Brother in a box?" Are there cameras that are not in boxes? What does the "in a box" refer to that's different than normal "Big Brother" references about cameras? And "maybe a little of both"? Is that the most over-used hedging of bets ever? How is that a lede to a story that anyone wants to read? Why wouldn't you cut that first paragraph and start the story with the second (amended by me): "Area police are excited about the possibilities offered by the automated license plate reader, a camera with a scanner mounted in a housing on selected police cruisers. But area activists are concerned that the readers present potential invasions of privacy." Anyway, some of the concerns presented are real. No, license plates that are read and recorded by the cameras shouldn't be kept on file unless they triggered a match to a license plate that's linked to a wanted criminal or stolen car. The critics are right about that. And the lack of a strict policy on that matter by the cops is cavalier at best and negligent at worst. The guy's right here:
Stephens said â€œif in fact data is stored, that is extremely troubling. There should be absolutely no storage of the dataâ€ pertaining to innocuous vehicles. Such data could be subpoenaed in civil litigation, Stephens said. For example, he said, a person suing for divorce could try to obtain license-tracking data to show the past whereabouts of a cheating spouse.As a journalist, I would FOIA the crap out of that information any time I was trying to figure out where a public figure had been when he shouldn't have, etc. And while it may just be a characterization on the part of the writer, this paragraph is troubling:
Local authorities brushed off those concerns, saying they only plan to use the cameras for legitimate law enforcement purposes.You can't answer public concerns with: phsaw! You need to be able to say, "look we have definitive policy x, and if anyone violates that policy, they'll be reprimanded." The public employs the police to keep them safe - it's not too much to ask that they respect their valid criticisms and take them seriously. There is no way the video should be used to monitor the activities of law-abiding folks, and while it's unlikely they'd do anything with those recordings, it's appropriate for the public to be able to question the policy.