The National License Plate Recognition Program was begun by the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2008 to track the movement of drugs and drug money along the Mexican border. It has been buried in secrecy. But documents obtained by the ACLU and interviews by the Wall Street Journal reveal that it’s been vastly expanded, and US Senators are among those worried about significant violations of privacy all over the country.
License plate scanners in search of drug traffickers and stolen cars often identify the occupants of automobiles—revealing how ordinary Americans go about their business. It’s unclear how long the pictures stay in the files of federal and local police… or who else has access. But concerns about privacy are being raised.