The danger of license plate readers in Post-Roe America | MarketingwithAnoy

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Stanley says ALPRs are more concentrated in metropolitan areas, but they are also common in rural areas. If someone travels out of the state to have an abortion, police are likely to be able to repeatedly identify where their license plate was scanned during the trip and the times it was scanned. With that information, they may be able to outline this person’s travel patterns. Police do not need a warrant to get this information because license plates are out in the open and can be seen by anyone, which is not necessarily the case when police want to obtain a person’s location data from their phone or use another tracking method.

“The closer ALPR scanners are, the more similar they are to GPS tracking,” says Stanley.

Once the person seeking an abortion has left the state, a police department could search for license plate data in another state through the private databases, or they could obtain this data through a police department in that state. Police departments around the country regularly share ALPR data with each other, and the data is often shared with a little overview.

“It’s a big problem that people share data without really being aware of who they’re sharing it with and why,” said Dave Maass, director of research for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Maass notes that police are not the only ones who could use ALPR data to track people seeking abortion access. Thanks to the passage of the Texas Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), he says anti-abortion groups could use license plate data in lawsuits against whole crowds of people. This law allows anyone in the United States to sue abortion providers, anyone who “helps or assists” anyone seeking an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected (typically about six weeks) – or anyone who intends to help someone with to get an illegal abortion in the state. Anti-abortion groups have also been known for Write down people’s license plate numbers at abortion clinics over the years, Maass notes, so they can even have a database of license plate numbers available to them that they could search through.

“One of the things I’m worried about is this large private database run by DRN Data. It is not necessarily law enforcement, but individual actors who may be trying to enforce abortion laws under things like Texas’ SB 8, ”says Maass.

DRN data operates a license plate reader database that receives its data from repo trucks and other vehicles equipped with ALPRs. (DNR Data has not yet responded to WIRED’s request for comment.) Regardless of who operates them, there is no shortage of license plate scanners, and both Maass and Stanley say it would be extremely difficult for a person seeking an abortion to avoid to be monitored along the road.

“You could take an Uber, but it would create a different data track. You could rent a car, but it’s a different data track. You could ride the bus, but it’s a different data track,” says Maass.

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