“Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!” Sounds really nice, right?
Some local police departments in Northern Virginia are still randomly scanning license plate data — including the date, time and exact location where that license plate was located — and storing that data for years. That despite former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli telling state police last year in a strongly worded opinion that it was illegal to do so apart from a specific criminal investigation.
Why does that matter?
“The more information they get, the more they can tell about who you are, what you do, what doctor you see, what psychologist you see, where your car is parked,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is fighting to eliminate the random collection and storage practice. …
“The police will say this is wonderful because it helps us get the bad guys,” Gastañaga said. “My response is you could [also] walk down my street and search every house on my street.”
– Kathryn Watson, “ACLU to Virginians: How much does your police department know about you?”, April 1, 2014, Watchdog.org.
As if tracking and storing the movement of law abiding citizens using their auto license plates wasn’t enough, there’s the FBI’s new Next Generation Identification (NGI) system that just went operational this month:
[The NGI system combines criminal mug shots] “…with non-criminal facial images taken from employment records and background check databases … [s]o someone with no criminal history could be suspected of a crime if his or her face happens to be in the database.
– Nick Canedo,“FBI facial recognition system now fully operational in 18,000 bureaus across the country,” Syracuse.com, September 16, 2014.
“Non-criminal facial images? Say, if you have a driver’s license, they already have one of those for you on file, all set to add to the database! Great, eh?
This sort of thing makes me stop and think about those reluctant to be included in group photos taken while at social events. While many enjoy group photos as a reminder of a wonderful outing with their friends, others may prefer not to be in them; it’s kind of like not wanting to be in a school class photo or something. And that’s fine.
But then there are those who extend that preference a step further and confront those around them, demanding the deletion of any photo in which they may appear, citing concerns about identity theft and/or privacy.
The former concern may seem legitimate until you consider that the potential identity thief doesn’t want his or her target’s photo, because he/she will substitute their own likeness anyway, if a photo ID is involved.
The latter concern is simply misplaced, because people in public simply cannot expect total privacy, because they are publicly visible to anyone who might pass by. When in public spaces where [a person is] lawfully present, [he/she has] the right to photograph anything that is in plain view. Like it or not, while you are in public your photo is taken countless times every day, by passersby and by fixed cameras on streets, at traffic lights, and in stores, banks, etc.
Finally, as the above articles noted, the local police, in Virginia anyway, is illegally tracking and storing your movements in their database, and your photo is already mixed in with 8 million criminal mug shots in the FBI’s new database. If you’re worried about a photo compromising your privacy, our government’s increasingly police state mentality let that horse out of the barn long ago.
With all this going on, getting upset at a friend for taking your photo at an explicitly social event is acting like one of the Corleone family in this scene from the Godfather: