Where police were auto-scanning license plates before they accidentally gave license data to the Globe

MuckRock, which made the initial public-records request for the basic data as part of a joint investigation with the Globe, maps the locations.of the 40% of license hits it got from Boston Police - minus the license-plate numbers, which the department accidentally gave out.



Free tagging: 


This is interesting

MuckRock has just scratched the surface of interesting information to come. A whole can of worms that frightened BPD enough to suspend the program. Hmm, how come there were so many violator hits around the BPD parking lot? How many stops resulted from the hits and what happened?

Adam, thanks for linking to the article.


I don't think these are violator hits. I think they are the locations of where a read was made. There are lots of reads made in the parking lot, probably because it's automatically reading all of the cars as they come and go each day from the lot.

Nope, but location data is private

License plates aren't private, but who it is issued to is. So is a steady information of location data (related to my license plate or not).

In June, the MA SJC decided in Commonwealth v Rousseauthe following:

Thus,we must decide whether our property based analysis in Connolly represents the outer limits of the protections afforded by art.14 or whether, even in the absence of a property interest, the government's contemporaneous electronic monitoring of one's comings and goings in public places invades one's reasonable expectation of privacy. We conclude that under art.14, a person may reasonably expect not to be subjected to extended GPS electronic surveillance by the government, targeted at his movements, without judicial oversight and a showing of probable cause.

In fact, with this court case under our belts, I'd love to see a rights attorney sue the police if it is ever shown that MSP or BPD ever datashare information that the NSA has been garnering from cell phones, etc.


that case is in regards to the passenger's rights in regards to a GPS device which was lawfully placed on a car. Your jump into a data share pool with the NSA is tin foil hat material.

Nothing in that article suggests that there was an overt attempt to use this data to follow people. Nowhere in that article is there information showing that the BPD linked the license plates to the owner's Identity. Nothing in that article suggests that one person was followed or a group protected under the first amendment was monitored.

All the article shows is that:

1. Someone failed at redacting data
2. someone failed at writing the correct query for disposing of data.

your jumps into the invasion of personal liberties and the existence large government plots are not supported by this article.

Sure, my leaps were totally unfeasible

There was an overt attempt to follow people in the article. The reporter did it for two patrol cars...it probably took him seconds to do. You don't think the cops are capable of doing the same thing for license plates that repeated and/or may have been of interest due to some other investigation?

These lists were from what was scanned IF it hit against multiple databases of offenses. What says the reverse, a database of offenses bounced off of these lists of plates, wasn't used to find vehicles or patterns that investigators could later follow up on with regular police work? Clearly they are technically capable of performing the searches one direction...but not the other?

Secondly, cops link license plates to people all the time. What makes these license plates special? Because they promised not to? They also promised to delete data after 90 days. The article points out that is not what happened.

This program, de facto, is an invasion of personal privacy by collecting location data associated with the license plates. Keeping that data around only makes it available to search for trends, etc. otherwise, why keep it around? And the existence of large government plots doesn't need this article to be supported nor does it need tin foil any longer. Search the web for "NSA revelations". Our 4th Amendment rights are pretty much as meaningless as they've ever been in the history of our nation. That we've all complicitly reached such a nadir has only fueled these agencies compunction to further erode them with impunity. What you think is conspiracy today is the project pipeline for government groups intent on "saving us" from evil and there's plenty of evidence that it happens within local law enforcement (search for the "StingRay" technology being used by local and state cops across the nation) as well as at the NSA.


The only violation of peoples' privacy came when they got a FOIA and released personal information that should have been redacted?

That does not seem to be a problem with the program, so much as it is a problem with the people who put together the data for release.