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In this modern world that we live in it is becoming easier than ever to follow and trace someone. Any more it’s not just the government or police that can follow us but individual companies as well.
The different Governmental agencies that carry out these types of programs often justify them by saying that they are just for the use of monitoring and capturing criminals or terrorists.
The problem is that even though this type of monitoring might be well intentioned programs can easily be misused or the way they are used can be changed.
Agencies that use this type of program always justify them with the argument that if we give up a little of our privacy and freedom we’ll be safer.
The implication is also that if we aren’t doing anything wrong we shouldn’t be concerned because there won’t be any problems for us.
I’m not sure about you but the thought of giving up my privacy in increments as technology makes tracking us easier bothers me.
Some day we may wake up and find that our freedoms that we take for granted have been shrunk by more than we think.
Are They Tracking Your Car
Recently the Wall Street Journal broke a story about how the Justice Department through the DEA has created a massive data base that tracks the car movements of pretty much anyone.
Although a spokesman said that the database was originally set up to track people that were running drugs they admitted that they have since expanded the program to trace pretty much anyone in any larger metro area.
Established in 2008, the original program was a way to track down and seize cars, money, and other assets that were involved in drug trafficking in Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico, and Nevada.
These states all have known areas where drugs are funneled across the U.S. border.
The secret license plate scanning program has since been expanded to create a real time national vehicle tracking database that monitors the movements of hundreds of millions of motorists, whether they are involved in illegal activity or not.
The WSJ pulled no punches when it described the program as nothing less than “a secret domestic intelligence-gathering program.”
Long Term Goal Of The Program
But according to documents received through a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU it seems that the goal of the program has always been a nationwide database, something that was never publicly disclosed.
One of the documents received from the DEA refers to the steps that are needed to make sure that the program meets its goals – “of which assest forfeiture is primary.”
Asset forfeiture has been widely criticized since its start as a tactic that doesn’t do anything for public safety but only helps police and federal agencies obtain money outside the normal budgeting process that can be overseen by the public.
The program also uses the data to mine the license reader data to identify travel patterns. The extent of this data mining is currently unknown but it does bring up a lot of questions that don’t seem to have answers right now.
- For instance, what type of program is the DEA using to analyze the data?
- Does it try to use traffic patterns to predict our likelihood of committing a crime?
- Could we become suspects for more enhanced surveillance if we drive down a certain road or stop at a certain house?
- What else does the DEA think that they know about us just through reading our license plates?
Even more concerning is the fact that the DEA has also invited other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies from around the country to contribute location information to the database.
Once vetted these agencies are then authorized to conduct queries of the data base. This means that we the public are unable to know who has our location and travel information or how it is being used.
One major partner with this program is the Customs and Border Patrol. The Patrol claims to collect nearly 100% of the traffic coming across our borders.
All of this collected information can be shared with federal, state, and local agencies and prosecutors. The documents collected by the ACLU also state that the Border Patrol and the DEA will share their information with “intelligence, operations, and fusion centers.”
The Customs and Border Patrol says that it collected over 793.5 million license plates between May 2009 and May 2013.
Our Opinion Of This Program
I have to say that this program seems to have started with a good goal, that of tracking people who were involved in the sale or distribution of drugs.
Obviously that didn’t work any better than all the other war on drugs type programs because it doesn’t seem to have left a dent in the amount of drugs sold in this country.
What it did do is allow for a massive program whose sole goal is to track everyone – just in case they do something illegal.
This is just too big brother for my taste. It’s one thing to do surveillance on known criminals but something entirely different to do it on everyone just watching to see if there is wrongdoing.
All this is being done with no oversight or supervision – no warrants are being used to pry into our lives and anyone who wants to can join the snooping club.
The worst part in my mind though is that there is almost no way that we can avoid this snooping unless we take buses or walk instead of driving.