One of the most common accusations of hypocrisy leveled at anarchists is that many of us use public roads, which are financed by taxbux. It is very difficult to lead any sort of typical life these days without doing so, of course—but leave it to the state to provide some motivation for changing that.
Via Strike the Root I read an article titled License-plate scanning catching crooks, raising privacy concerns; I’d heard about this capability before, but the scope of it revealed in the article is alarming. A sample from the beginning of the article, emphasis mine:
Infrared units mounted to the front of [Arizona DPS Border Crimes Unit officer] Callister's vehicle scan the license plates of a Casa Grande firefighter, an Ohio State football fan and everyone else who drives past as he hunts for stolen vehicles.
Every plate is photographed, time-stamped, labeled on a GPS map and automatically logged into an Arizona Department of Public Safety database. An electronic voice alerts Callister to stolen vehicles within seconds after they pass, giving him the ability to make quick arrests.
Callister is among the growing number of Arizona officers who use cameras to scan thousands of plates on a daily basis, sweeping parking lots and highways to recover stolen vehicles faster than ever before. ....
Callister said .... "Now, with the plate reader and my computer, I've had days when I've read over 8,000 [plates]."
The article gives the obligatory nods to privacy concerns, but focuses primarily on how efficient the system is and how grateful victims of auto theft are that their vehicles are located and returned, sometimes quite quickly. More alarming is the soothing talk of how the program “might be” expanded:
By logging the daily location of thousands of registered automobiles, investigators may be able to narrow down the locations of people they are looking for.
The automated technology, for instance, gives officers the ability to check the license plate of each vehicle parked outside a known drug house or note what cars were parked outside a bank before and after a heist.
In October, Callister stopped a motorist on I-10 near Casa Grande for driving too close to another vehicle. The stop led to the discovery of $175,000 in cash and raised suspicions of money laundering.
To search for the man's possible criminal associates, detectives could easily check the list of license plates on vehicles that passed before and after the man's vehicle.
So, if one were to unknowingly park in the wrong spot, or be in the vicinity of a vehicle whose occupants are doing things of which the state doesn’t approve, one is automatically a suspect now? This is worse than expecting individuals to know all of the laws that our various levels of masters wish us to unquestioningly obey—it’s expecting omniscience in order to avoid their nets! Can things really get more absurd? Of course they could—as of now, there are apparently no guidelines on how to handle the enormous database these sweeps generate. Of great concern there is an inconvenient fact casually mentioned in the article (emphasis mine):
Of the thousands of license plates scanned each day, only a small fraction of the vehicles are tied to some possible criminal activity.
DPS, working with statewide task forces, could emerge as the central agency to store the data from the scans - but the agency has yet to establish guidelines on how to use the data and how long that information would be saved.
"That's where some people might consider it an invasion of privacy," Callister said, but he downplayed the idea, saying the plates are public information seen on public streets. ....
Arizona legislators have provided little guidance on how to regulate the technology since Mesa police pioneered Arizona's first plate-readers in 2005.
And of course, the innocent pay for this invasion of their privacy. Who knows what other uses this technology is being put to, that hasn’t been publicly acknowledged yet? For those who think they’re safe, because they don’t live in Arizona and have no intention of visiting the state, think again: the article mentions a New York case where surveillance camera tapes showed a murder suspect’s alibi to be false. Consider how those EZ Passes for toll roads make it very easy to track a person’s movements over many miles and years; consider the many, many scenarios in one’s daily life in which one is recorded: busy intersections; toll booths; banks; many stores, ranging from WalMart to pawn shops to exclusive boutiques; ATMs; city streets; highway rest areas; gas stations ... and I’m sure I’m forgetting many others. Technology is turning society into a nest of peeping Toms, watching us all for the chance to catch anyone and everyone who steps out of line, and increasingly encouraging civilians to snitch on each other.
Short of becoming part of an entirely self-sufficient gulch somewhere and never straying far from it, I simply do not see a way around using roads. But this trend among The Controllers and Deciders is encouraging me to explore ways to thumb my nose at their actions. It’s more a symbolic gesture than anything, but since license plates are the state’s property and I consider myself subject to their use under duress, whenever I wash a vehicle I do not wash the state’s property. [If only we did some off-road driving!] I cheer when I see vehicles on the road without the damned things. I recall hearing something about reflectors that are intended to thwart readers—or do they block the bounce of lidar off of a plate? Even with their technically-advanced tools, we outnumber them—and they can’t be everywhere at once. It’s almost too late to start planning and educating others about these incursions into our everyday lives.
There goes the idea of an Arizona road trip anytime soon, too. Pity—it’s a beautiful place and some of my favorite people live there.