There’s a certain amount of distrust for the government that’s healthy. And they sure do make it easy… especially when it comes to new ideas and proposed laws that essentially promise to violate our privacy.
The worst part is that we have to be worried about more than just our federal government…
State and local governments are no exception when it comes to violating our privacy rights, too.
You see, Americans are already concerned about their privacy being
violated when it comes to their cellphones and emails, among other
The last thing they want to worry about is someone hacking their personal information through their license plate…
California’s Senate Bill 806 has made its way to Governor Jerry Brown’s
desk and legislators are simply waiting on him to sign off. The bill
would kick-start a pilot program for electronic license plate system.
The 12-by-6-inch digital screen would be found on as many as 160,000
cars during the three year pilot.
The digital plates are designed to show the state name along with the
license plate number, similar to the traditional plates. However, the
technology would allow the plates to display Amber Alerts or
notifications that indicate that the tag is expired or even that the car
is uninsured or stolen. The screen could also facilitate toll payments.
All potentially beneficial things, sure, but is it really worth it?
Privacy Getting the Ultimate Boot
While California may have the best of intentions when it comes to
electronic license plates, there are reasons for privacy concerns.
According to Lee Tien, an attorney at Electronic Frontier Foundation,
the bill has “gotten some amendments that address some of the location
privacy issues – within the pilot, the DMV would not be receiving any
location information. But the company that operates the plates would
[have access, and] they are going to be controlling what’s on the
plates.” However, Tien doesn’t believe the legislature is taking privacy
concerns seriously: “We’re surprised and disappointed that this bill
seems to be proceeding without any serious exploration of the privacy
risks. Just because it’s a pilot doesn’t excuse the Legislature of
If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It?
If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” However, we all know that California is
broke, and they’re going to do almost anything they can to cut the
budget and increase revenue, and the state thinks the electronic plates
will help them do just that. The state hopes that the plates, patented
by San Francisco-based Smart Plate Mobile, will make the vehicle
registration process more efficient and save the DMV nearly $20 million
on the cost of yearly tag renewals.
A similar bill was proposed in California in 2010, but that bill
allowed advertisements to scroll on the screens if a car was stopped for
more than three seconds. The state saw the plates as a way to increase
revenue because the DMW would’ve profited from selling ad space. While
the current bill doesn’t include provisions for advertisements, they
haven’t ruled ads out altogether. Jim Lites, a lobbyist for Smart Plate
Mobile, said the bill’s focus isn’t advertisement revenue, but is
instead focused on creating more efficiency. But the truth is, Lites
doesn’t really rule anything out: “Let’s focus on that and let the
Legislature decide what they would like this technology to do, assuming
this pilot is successful.”
Residents of California aren’t the only people who should be
concerned. While California may be the first to test-drive the plates,
New Jersey and South Carolina are considering electronic license plates
If the technology is already on our cars, what stops the government
from using it (as history is proving… virtually nothing can stop the
government.) And if more scrutiny isn’t placed upon this device
regarding the privacy concerns, we may be setting ourselves up for the
ultimate tracking and monitoring system. We’ve got bigger problems now
than those Orwellian traffic cameras; these things would be able to monitor us the entire time we’re on the go.
In pursuit of the truth,