By on June 30, 2013

camaroplate_r

The news that the police departments in California routinely scan and record license plates to create a database that can be used to retroactively track any driver’s motions and activities broke at political and civil liberty websites and is now percolating through the autoblogosphere. Jack Baruth wrote about it here at TTAC yesterday. Jalopnik has picked up the story today. Like the current issue over NSA monitoring of electronic communication involves balancing national security with Americans’ privacy from government intrusion, recording and tracking license plates can be a useful tool in solving crime but it also seems contrary to American values and rights like freedom of motion and freedom from random surveillance without probable cause. Still, if I had a vote on the matter, since law enforcement in this country hasn’t exactly had a sterling record in protecting civil liberties, I wouldn’t trust them with this technology. Who knows how the political system will eventually deal with this news, but in the meantime remember that for every technology there is some way to defeat it. In this case, it might even be legal.

licenseplatecamera

The law here in Michigan, and I assume it’s the same in most U.S. states, is that the registration information on your license plate has to be clearly legible and free of obstructions. Since people have been ticketed for license plate frames, tinted covers, and laser filters, putting any kind of cover over the plate would be legally problematic, or at least expose you to a traffic stop. I guess it hinges on how your particular cop and judge is going to define “clearly legible” and “obstruction”. It seems to me, though, that those legal terms have to do with human beings so you might be able to get away with some kind of polarized or interference filter that would mess with a digital camera but still be completely legible to a human. Still, as I said, putting anything directly over the plate might still get you a ticket.

Likewise, trying to use some kind of active lighting device that would blind the plate readers might also run afoul of statutes. I suppose there might even be some case law on using a device that interferes with traffic enforcement cameras. Actually, I’d be shocked if the traffic enforcement and municipal revenue industry jurisdictions didn’t already make that illegal. So lasers and LEDs trying to blind the cops’ cameras directly are probably not a good idea.

licenseplatecamera2

“MPH” doesn’t stand for Miles Per Hour here. It’s “Mobile Plate Hunter”. Doesn’t the use of the word “hunter” speak volumes?

Mulling this over, I thought about some of my own experience taking digital photos of cars (and license plates). I’m not a particularly great photographer, mostly a point ‘n shoot guy, but over the past three years I’ve taken tens of thousands of stereo pairs for the 3D content at Cars In Depth so it’s not like I’ve never tried to get a photo of a car’s license plate. Actually, once at a Camaro show I spent much of the day just shooting vanity plates. As I thought about jamming a plate reader and started going through Michigan state laws about registration plates and what’s legal and what’s not, if you’ll pardon the phrase, a light bulb went on. It’s possible that the very solution may exist in the Michigan Vehicle Code.

Every car in Michigan has to display its registration plate on the back of the car in, as mentioned, a clearly legible manner. Older cars that don’t have them as standard equipment are grandfathered in and exempt, but if your car was built after the federal motor vehicle safety standards were first introduced in the 1960s, your car must have a white light that illuminates your license plate at night, rendering it clearly legible at 50 feet behind the car.

MICHIGAN VEHICLE CODE (EXCERPT)
Act 300 of 1949
257.686 Rear lamps; exemption; requirements for implement of husbandry; pickup camper.

Sec. 686.

(2) Either a tail lamp or a separate lamp shall be constructed and placed so as to illuminate with a white light the rear registration plate and render it clearly legible from a distance of 50 feet to the rear. A tail lamp or tail lamps, together with any separate lamp for illuminating the rear registration plate, shall be wired so as to be lighted whenever the head lamps or auxiliary driving lamps are lighted.

257.689 Clearance and marker lamps and reflectors; color.

Sec. 689.

(c) All lighting devices and reflectors mounted on the rear of any vehicle shall display or reflect a red color, except the stop light or other signal device, which may be red or amber, and except that the light illuminating the license plate shall be white.

So the law here says that I have to have a white light that illuminates my rear license plate that makes it clearly legible from a distance of fifty feet. Note that the law does not say that I can’t use a light that’s bright enough to make it visible at even longer distances. How bright my license plate lamp (and a “lamp” can have more than lighting element) can be does not appear to be regulated, provided it meets the minimum standards.

One of the things that I’ve learned shooting and processing those photos is that the human vision system is so much more sophisticated than even the most advanced digital or chemical camera. Your eyes can move in their sockets, your head can swivel and in real life your brain has terrabytes more information to work with than with photography, still or motion. What causes distortion or visual confusion in photography is not even noticed in real vision.

licenseplate_r

The above photograph of the ’63 split-window Corvette coupe was taken at the General Motors Heritage Center a couple of years ago and has not been modified other than cropping. I hadn’t yet learned that unless you’re using auxiliary lighting, when shooting in a large room, it’s best to turn off the flash and either let the cameras autoexpose or use manual settings. Otherwise, the flash ends up lighting the near field and everything in the background is dark. Also, when you use a flash you run the risk of the cars’ safety reflectors shining the light back at the camera, washing out part of the image.

As you can see from the photo, the effect also works with reflective license plates. The law says that I have to have a white light for my license plate that makes it visible from 50 feet. The law doesn’t say that I can’t make that light so bright that bouncing off the reflective surface of the license plate it would blind a digital camera. It also doesn’t say anything about light that is beyond the visible spectrum, like infrared. Since at least some of the plate readers use IR cameras, mixing in some IR with white doesn’t seem to me to violate the law. Actually, if the cameras work in the infrared spectrum, perhaps an array of heating elements that sufficiently warm the plate might defeat them.

It occurs to me that strobing the light at the right frequency might further interfere with the plate reader’s frame rate, but except for turn indicators, flashing lights are generally prohibited on non-emergency vehicles. As a matter of fact, most exterior lighting not used for road illumination or as otherwise required by law is prohibited. So undercarriage neon lights, or a neon license plate frame must not be illuminated when on the road. I’m not sure about coach lamps on broughams and landaus are quite legal then, but this would be another reason why an active system of additional lights trying to blind the cameras would be legally problematic.

That’s why using a super bright license plate light (or lights, the law doesn’t say you can’t have more than one) strikes me as an elegant solution. It’s not only legal, but you’re using equipment that the law says you must have on your car.

Please join in the conversation. Those with expertise  in the law, optics and digital photography are particularly encouraged to share their informed opinions.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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89 Comments on “Would License Plate Reader Jammers Work And Be Legal?...”


  • avatar

    I just thought about this the other day. I think you’re best off going with some sort of always hot IR license plate frame. You can’t go leaving your headlights on every time you park the car, as it would kill your battery, but I think a couple of IR emitters would be low enough of a draw to bleep out the plate.

    You could also go with some mondo LEDs to light your plate while driving and always run your headlights for safety’s sake.

    I read about IR glasses blinding facial recognition cameras awhile back which gave me the idea for an IR license plate frame to stop ANPRs.

    http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/22/new-glasses-thwart-facial-recognition-scanners-marking-trend-in-privacy-wearables/

    A college professer once summarized the difference between U.S. and European law systems. In America, everything is permitted except that which is specifically prohibited, in Europe, everything is prohibited except that which is specifically permitted. More or less.

    • 0 avatar
      catachanninja

      As far as leaving headlights or other electronics on there is a decent but expensive solution, AGM dual purpose batteries not only will last longer and start your car more reliably, they’ll let you run those lights without damaging the battery.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Leaving the headlights on won’t work. I just took a perfect flash exposure of a plate – in the dark with two xenons and two white leds on either side of the plate.

        This was with spot metering at the center of the plate, so everything other than the center of the plate was ignored. Try every trick you want, but the camera only cares about setting the exposure on the center of the plate. In addition to using spot metering, I had auto lighting optimization enabled and the flash metering set to evaluative, flash shutter synch set to 1st curtain, and flash exposure compensation set to zero. I can enable flash bracketing if I really want to cover my bases. Of course, I could have skipped the flash by snapping on a 1.4 lens and selecting a 5 digit iso.

        If I get a chance, I might try to repeat the experiment with a pair of 24 led clusters attached directly to the plate.

    • 0 avatar

      A car not parked on a public road wouldn’t need a tag (or more simplistically, doesn’t require the tag to be visible). Further, LEDs would be a great solution as they are most every spectrum desired and use less power. If you in the mall for a few hours you shouldn’t have to worry (or keep them on a separate power source that won’t drain the main power system.

      • 0 avatar
        slow kills

        I believe that your driveway is a public road as far as the law is concerned.
        There are LCD plate covers that go dark when the ignition was off (or a switch cut the power, wink wink). It looks like ghostplate.com is an example of this.

        • 0 avatar
          mkirk

          I dont think so. None of the Farm Trucks I knew of growing up were registered as they never left the farm.

          • 0 avatar
            bufguy

            There are local ordinances that governs registration of cars that are not stored in doors in residential neighborhoods. For instance in Buffalo, NY its is an offense to have a vehicle parked in your driveway that does not have plates and an up to date registration. This is to prevent people collecting unusable or junked vehicles. Leaving in the open can diminish the property of surrounding neighbors.

    • 0 avatar

      Face detection cameras and license plate cameras can be blinded using IR LES diodes. Keep in mind, the human eye can’t see the IR coming out of the diodes but they completely dazzle the cameras. If you were to rig a frame with the diodes, the cameras would never be able to read your plate. Problem is, if the Chinese mass markets this, it will automatically be prohibited by some shylock in office – probably Bloomberg followed by the others.

      • 0 avatar
        Fenian

        Are you really using the term shylock to refer to Bloomberg?

        It can be used to mean a loan shark (as in the character Shylock from the Merchant of Venice), but it is often used as an ethnic epithet for Jews. I would use a different term in the future or drop it from your lexicon.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Digital cameras have built-in infrared filters, so I don’t see infrared working.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      In Iraq we rigged up a metal square with a glow plug i it. The plug heated the metal and it would trick Passive Infrared initiation systems into going off early so the blast would miss your truck for the most part. Something similar might work here though I doubt you’d need that much heat.

      • 0 avatar
        eamiller

        A glow plug (or any heat source) primarily emits in the Far infrared range, which is where things that detect heat operate (night vision goggles, for example).

        Visible light imagers (cameras) are sensitive up to about 950nm (near infrared), but are especially sensitive in the 800-900nm range, which is where more near-IR diodes emit light.

        As an experiment, if you have a webcam, take your remote control and activate it while pointing it at the webcam (most webcams are to cheap to have an IR cut filter). You’ll see the light coming out of it.

    • 0 avatar
      motormouth

      I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this in the thread, but in the UK (and maybe other European countries), the cops use the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system to check number plates against various vehicular databases. People have tried to use a range of elements, additions, waxes, grease, etc. to throw off the readers in cop cars, but if the system can’t read the plate, you’re getting pulled over. Beyond this, various major highways have fixed ANPR cameras installed above the roadway to alert the cops as to what vehicles are entering central city areas (anti-terror, etc), but mostly the system is used to check on stolen vehicles and people driving with no insurance.

      I’ve never heard anyone complaining about this system. I remember when the little grey cameras were put up and everyone wondered what they were, but nothing was said against them. I guess the general sense is that having fewer uninsured drivers (and there are considerably less now) on the road outweighed the perceived invasion of privacy.

      Of course, the system fails if a robber is smart enough to drive a taxed and insured vehicle, but it appears many are not. From what I see on TV, there appears to be no direct correlation between petty criminal activity and being smart enough to comply with local road laws.

      • 0 avatar
        Battles

        My personal gripe with ANPR is that the rober/crook/terrorist only needs to have the plate from a taxed and insured car on their car. They can steal one from a parked car which makes this whole system succeptible to attack using something that can be readily obtained from a parked car using a screwdriver.

        The traffic duty Police I know who drive ANPR equipped cars spend their shift either responding to not-exclusively traffic duties, driving set routes that maximise the numbers of cars that the ANPR or parked up on specially built raised platforms at the side of the road so that the ANPR camera can see traffic both coming and going along the road.
        Reduced budgets mean more reliance on technology and the manpower being used differently.
        The Met in London already use civilian staff to operate some ANPR type cameras, much cheaper than using Policemen.

        Even the local Police where I live know that the local crooks are using stooges to rent cars that are used for criminal acts. Rental cars will always pass an ANPR test. The local Pold really resent the reliance on ANPR instead of being able to use their experience and judgement on whether a car or driver look dodgy.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    Look for future plates to have embedded micro-chips similar to a Nexus card.

    After that they will figure out a way to charge you a tax every time you drive.

  • avatar
    canddmeyer

    Useless Jalopnik couldn’t be bothered posting my comment, so I’ll repost it here. This has been going on for years. Sacramento PD uses it daily, usually in shopping centers where many vehicles can be scanned at once. They’re looking for stolen cars, not unregistered vehicles. When they get a hit the car is staked out. Usually they bag the bad guy, sometimes with stolen credit cards, other burgled items, and they catch a shoplifter or two. My opinion is this is a good thing. Sac PD is too busy to be bothered with fix-it tickets for minor infractions.

    The newest thing is these ‘hits’ are sometimes parked by chop shops waiting to see if the vehicle is lo-jacked, so it sits for days until a thief decides it’s time to chop. If no one ‘claims’ the car, it is either towed, or, sometimes a tracking device is put on the vehicle hopefully leading to a chop shop.

  • avatar
    geofcol

    Using some of the waste heat from the exhaust may help create the temps to fickle the cameras.
    Shouldn’t it it be required that if there is an entity capturing information about me that I have some notification. I’ve heard that this information isn’t stored by the authorities, but by third party sources like the sellers of the systems. I think that there should be yearly notification of who is storing this sort of information and describing what the nature of the information it is. This should be required if my rights are to be respected.

  • avatar
    Burger Boy

    I have no problem with this technology. I have nothing to hide, and I like the idea of catching the bad guys and am willing to give up some perceived privacies to see it happen. Of course, I liked the idea of red-light cameras until it was shown that it turned into (or was all along) a big conspiracy to generate more income for the outside companies that managed them.

    • 0 avatar
      slow kills

      So fool you twice, shame on you?

    • 0 avatar
      Michael500

      Let me put this gently, you are a fool. YOU don’t KNOW what “sins” you need to hide. Your plate seen at a Catholic Church/any church- YOU are a homophobe, your plate at a McDonald’s- endagering your children with heart disease against Ms. Obama’s healthy food mandate, your plate in a parking lot where there is a sporting goods store that sells guns. YOU are a bad person that hates gay people, you endanger children and you love guns- I can’t believe what a bad person you are, thank God the truth is exposed about you. I have no problem taxing you more and sending you to a re-education camp. Good thing I have evidence to back my claim.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Please go take your meds and sit in a quiet, dark, padded room for a while and calm down.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          First they came for A, no one spoke up , then they came for B, no one spoke up……

          Then they came for you, there was no one to speak for you.

          You can’t take for granted freedom and privacy, as you give up rights little by little that are said to be for your benefit, your eventually left without rights.

          Mocking someone because their ideas seem far fetched, is exactly what “they” want you to do, they want to make people conspiracy theorist, it’s the only way to shut up opposition until they have more power.
          Never take ideas considered conspiracy theories for what they seem.

          “They” being progressives

          History repeating itself.

          • 0 avatar
            mr.cranky

            @Hummer- The surveillance state is not a recent thing.

            It was going on right under our noses. The NSA spying stuff? That was in the media back in 2006.

            No one paid any attention to it, even under a Republican president.

            Once again, this is NOT strictly a partisan issue. Please don’t insult the intelligence of other members by implying such a thing.

            Thank you.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Mr cranky, I never Said republican or democrats, progressives are infecting both parties.
            While I’m assuming your first thought was liberal, since progressives affect it much worse.

            I’ll go after anyone who threatens my freedom and my rights, but people act as if I only go after democrats, because the oh-so-great Obama is much too good to find flaws.

        • 0 avatar
          slow kills

          This unwarranted personal insult adds nothing. I sincerely hope you get dinged for this violation of terms of service (defamatory comment).
          Also, this petty allusion to mental illness merely reveals one too foolish to understand the wisdom he just read. BTW, NPR has made the exact same argument, just in case you are coming from the lefty side of supporting privacy invasion.

          • 0 avatar
            mkirk

            Really?! Defamatory?! wow

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I’m neither coming from the left, nor from the right. I’m a good old-fashioned Maine Independent, I think both “sides” are quite full of crap, and I can make up my own mind on the various issues of the day.

            I WANT the police that my taxes pay for to go after criminals as aggressively as possible. If license plate tracking makes that easier and cheaper I am all for it. As I have said previously on the subject, I live my life openly and have nothing to hide. Follow me around, you will die of boredom. Just like 99.9% of the rest of the population.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “Follow me around, you will die of boredom”

            I like this and I agree its true of the majority of the population. However giving the authorities even more power over you is never a good thing, while the original poster was a little out there, he’s correct as facts can be twisted to make different arguments. Generally speaking you’re unaware or unaffected by the additional loss of privacy/rights until you’re an enemy of the state. What happens when the party/cabal/mafia in power decides to go on a pogrom and turns to the security services/police to carry it out? Oh and please don’t dismiss it as impossible as history is littered with examples.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            This isn’t Nazi Germany, or some third world dictatorship. Nor are we a colony subject to the whims of a foreign king. We elect our government. The system may not be perfect, but it has worked quite well for nearly 250 years. Reality is the cops are far to busy with actual crime to even begin to have the time to make up crime.

            And if you don’t like this sort of thing, get off your ass and work towards changing the laws that allow it. Part of the magic of this country is that YOU can affect things, if you want to. But instead most are content to whine and wail on the Internet.

          • 0 avatar
            chuckrs

            We have had two sets of sedition laws, the first under John Adams’ presidency and the second signed into law by Woodrow Wilson. Both were brilliant men who knew better than those they governed. The 1918 enactment was actually an amendment to the Espionage Act and resulted in 1000 or more successful prosecutions with up to 20 years jail time merely for expressing opinions contrary to the policies of the government.
            It doesn’t matter if citizens lead exemplary lives. What matters is that we elect politicians who do not.

          • 0 avatar
            lon888

            You think cops know how to properly use probable cause? Check out this video below and ask yourself would you want your wife/daughter/mother subjected to this stupid use of “probable cause”. I’m sorry but every week there is the dumb story of the week of how some pea-brained cop misused their power. Even though I am a law abiding citizen, no searches without a search warrant. http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/crime/2013/06/25/newday-berman-traffic-stop-bra-shake.cnn#/video/crime/2013/06/25/newday-berman-traffic-stop-bra-shake.cnn

        • 0 avatar
          Slave2anMG

          So you’d be fine with having the cops search your car without a warrant? Or your house? Or your person? Or your daughter? After all, you’ve got nothing to hide…if you protest you must be guilty of something, right?

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Probable cause is necessary for a search. No probable cause is necessary for reading a license plate – it is IN PUBLIC.

            But to answer your question, no I would have no problem at all with a cop searching my car. Can’t imagine why one would want to, but if he wants to waste his time, no skin off my back. It will waste a LOT more of both of our time if he has to get a warrant for the search, and chances are, if he wants to do a search, he will GET that warrant. The chances of a cop wanting to search a house or person without a warrant is much, much lower as the chances of anything found being admissible in court is very low. In the real world, they get the warrant first. It’s not particularly hard.

            I’ll say it again – the cops are FAR too busy with actual crime to waste their time on making up crime. If for some reason you have pissed off a cop sufficiently that he has it out personally for YOU, well, you are screwed six-ways-to-Sunday anyway. Corrupt cops make great news stories, novels, and movies, but 99.999995% of them are just average folks doing a job. And a tough job at that.

          • 0 avatar
            Michael500

            I think KRhodes is right, he sure understands history better than I do. The US government/Democrat Roosevelt would NEVER round up Americans based on their ethnicity, take their property, and put them in concentration camps. Or ban gold ownership. Boy, that would never happen in the USA. I guess I’m just a crazy conspiracy guy. (For those of you with an education, you’ll get the joke). The rest will lash out in confusion.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            @Mike500

            If we forget history, it is destined to repeat itself.

            Maybe the cheerleaders of this kind of stuff know this and think if they score enough brownie points they’ll never be bothered. That is until it is actually used for something they dislike and it’s too late.

            Or maybe they just haven’t found themselves on the opposite end of a shaky-handed officer’s gun before.

          • 0 avatar
            jocada

            I realize I’m late to this conversation… but enjoy your 20 hour forced sodomy – but no worries, you have nothing to hide so you won’t mind…

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/05/david-eckert-enema-colonoscopy-drugs-traffic-stop_n_4218320.html

      • 0 avatar
        mr.cranky

        May I suggest laying off the Fox News and/or crack for a minute and look at this issue in a non-partisan manner?

        Oh right, that would be too much to ask on here.

        Whether you’re a liberal, a conservative, a libertarian, a moonbat or even a card-carrying member of the Communist Party, license plate surveillance is BAD, period.

        Anyone with common sense and a willingness to cast off the usual liberal/conservative/etc bashing and see this for what it really is, should do so.

        That being said, wouldn’t it make sense to put some kind of clear reflective film on your plates to create glare when being photographed?

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Also mr cranky, if you think your making a salient point by comparing Fox News to delusional drug takers, your not.

          Fox News is the only media source remotely non-partisan, but even then it leans left.

          You can’t say you hate being spied on and not go after the problem, progressives.

          • 0 avatar

            Fox News Non-Partisan? It leans left? To the left of WHAT, exactly?

          • 0 avatar
            lon888

            I guess Fox News is so far right, they’re actually left?!?

          • 0 avatar
            mr.cranky

            @Hummer- Please turn off the TV and use that thing in your head. I believe it’s called a brain but in your case, no need to worry.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Riiiight you keep believing I’m delusional when the facts are against your odds.

            Rules for radicals.
            When the facts are against you, attack the person, not the argument.

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        Get out of here with that BS. Sorry, but nobody is going to label you for going to church, McDonalds, or a sporting good store. Well, at least nobody with any intelligence or common sense. Of course there will always be ignorant fools who make such absurd assumptions, but that’s more the exception than the rule…and people that stupid are likely to make those assumptions without a car ever being involved in any way.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Most probably wouldn’t, but some might, like the Bloomberg types. I’d rather not take a chance and allow this type of invasion become more elaborate and legally precedented so it could one day be used in such as way.

          Just as there is a potential for some good to come of it, there is equal or greater opportunity for bad to come of it.

          I’m not OK with being monitored, and yes I have everything to hide.

          • 0 avatar
            Burger Boy

            Wow, I guess my little comment stirred you FOX watching, keep my money and my sins to myself group up. I stand with my original comment and raise my finger to those of you that bad-mouthed me and my opinion. You’re entitled to you opinion, but call me names and go **** yourselves.

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      Burger,
      You only think you have nothing to hide.

      What if the local police chief hates a relative of yours and decides to get back at said relative by ticketing every member of your family- except the relative?

      Or what if your political affiliation is not accepted by the state police and your car tag is read at a rally for said political party allowing the state police to target you with multiple tickets?

      Right now, you have to opt in for driving monitoring by an insurance company for “reduced rates”. What happens if the read tag info gets data based and data mined and then is sold to your insurance company (like a credit score- which is based on ~public~ info too) which then can raise your rates because you were in “a more dangerous driving area” for more than 5 hours?

    • 0 avatar
      benfrank

      “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

      Benjamin Franklin

  • avatar
    kps

    In Ontario, “number plates shall not be obstructed by any device that prevents the entire number plates including the numbers from being accurately photographed using a photo-radar system”, “accurately photographed using a red light camera system”, or “identified by an electronic toll system”. If you are rich and idle, you might be wiling to argue in court that a bright light does not count as an ‘obstruction’, but if you win they will only change the law.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      If it’s not visible, and they can’t get your plate, how will they know to ticket you?

    • 0 avatar
      claytori

      If you keep your Ontario plates long enough, the older steel ones will go completely rust coloured, and the newer aluminum ones will fade to completely white. This is “illegible” in many conditions to the eye as well as a camera. However, there is nothing in the Highway Traffic Act that actually requires legibility. It is illegal to cover or “obstruct by any device” or allow mud or dirt to accumulate. It is also illegal to repaint them.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    What if I was, to say, get two liscense plates, and (on my truck with spares on rear), put one liscense plate on one side, which would be half hid, and the other plate sticking out the other side with the other half being unhid.

    If you catch what I’m saying….

    So your plate isn’t hid, but the two sides are separated by 35″ or w/e of tire, if the trackers are only noticing plates, what would this do?

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    http://www.nophoto.com/

    Search here “alpr” or just “license plate” for some ideas. Not much counter development since its mostly a radar detector site.

    http://www.radardetectorforum.org/forumdisplay.php?f=12

    Sounds like the new ALPR systems see through just everything. And when some is just not right with the plate or tag it sends off an alarm.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    No justification whatsoever for insulting someone who offers the “nothing to hide” argument, but it certainly seems a rather shallow analysis that handles all the ramifications of snooper-world with this bromide. More to the point, there must be limits to what others are permitted to learn about each of us without our consent.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      As far as I am concerned, if I am out in my car in public, then I am IN PUBLIC. Track me all you want. It’s no different than having a driver’s license meaning you have given consent to BAC tests. Don’t like it, don’t drive. Problem solved. Live somewhere you can take a bus, and wear a mask in public. It’s a free country. You can be just as weird as you want, as long as you keep it to yourself.

      If the government slides too far down the slope, well, guess what, they are, in fact, our elected government. Vote them out. Vote to change the local laws. My state has a people’s referendum process that works wonderfully for taming the excesses of government. We voted out Federally mandated emissions testing before it even started, as an example. The Feds had to pound sand. We voted out gay marriage, then a few years later we voted it right back in again. My state has banned all forms of automated traffic ticketing before it even got started. If your state has no similar mechanism, start the process to get that mechanism in place, or move. Ain’t freedom grand!

      I don’t buy into the meme that our government does no right. It does what we want it to do. The biggest issue in this country is a severe lack of common sense.

      • 0 avatar
        old5.0

        And what, pray tell, has left you with the impression that, once the slide has passed a certain critical velocity, you’ll be allowed to simply “vote them out”? Because the Constitution guarantees it? Sorry, but that particular piece of paper is of little consequence to most politicians these days. And I hate to be the guy who invokes Godwin’s Law, but even Hitler’s assumption of power was well within the letter, if not the spirit, of the Weimar Constitution.

        Even a basic grasp of human behavior and psychology will show you that power attracts certain personality types, and those personalities are seldom benevolent. In fact, as the concentration of power increases, the greater the thirst for ever-increasing power becomes among those who wield it.

        As for your state’s referendum, well…. you may have gotten one over, but it’s naive to assume that the Feds will ever simply “go pound sand.” Incidentally, what state do you live in? I’m curious because I’ve never heard of a state successfully forcing the Federal Government to back off of its position in similar situations. Indeed, many have tried, during the phase-in’s of the 55 MPH speed limit and Fed-mandated car insurance programs, for example. They all lost.

        Look, you can wave your hand and dismiss this as a “meme” or a “wing-nut conspiracy theory” or “tin-foil hatterism”, but the fact is that, unfortunately for you and me both, history is filled to overflowing with evidence that backs up my position, and practically nothing to support yours. Arguing that “it hasn’t happened yet, so it’ll never happen” is fallacious in the extreme, particularly when the Iron Law of Oligarchy is proven by history to be shockingly accurate.

        I do, however, agree with your assertion regarding common sense.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “unfortunately for you and me both, history is filled to overflowing with evidence that backs up my position, and practically nothing to support yours. Arguing that “it hasn’t happened yet, so it’ll never happen” is fallacious in the extreme, particularly when the Iron Law of Oligarchy is proven by history to be shockingly accurate.”

          Indeed how quickly we forget. The founding fathers warned over and over and over again of the dangers of ever-encroaching government powers. Why so do many brush it off? Have we been too spoiled? Do we think that somehow it’s different now?

          I’d rather not let it get to that point then have to worry about it then.

  • avatar
    Neb

    OK, so the plate reader camera is infra-red…I’d think Ronnie’s bright infrared light is a good suggestion. Another idea might be to lower the contrast between the characters and the background. I know there are ultraviolet stickers that buildings put on windows that are transparent to visible light but visible to birds – something like that, but infrared, would be ideal.

    Good old fashioned heat might do the trick as well. I guess you could make the entire plate hot, but the sweet spot would be to remove all contrast by adding heat. Kind of like that thermal tank camouflage I remember Mr. Schmitt posting around here, though way less complected, since all you want to do is erase information, instead of mimicking a background.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Sorry guys, this is a lot of effort for little return. There are cameras everywhere. You can’t get away from it. We are in the surveillance age and the only way to get off the grid is to.. well, get off the grid. No car, no phone, no internet. Heating plates, LEDs and all this jazz won’t stop anything. Governments the world over are pissed off at the little guy (you and me).. Why? No clue.. More is to come (unfortunately).

    We’ve much more to worry about than plate scans. While I am torn on what Snowden did, something had to be said. This unregulated, undisclosed and taxpayer-funded monitoring and collection of data IS a problem. Period. “But that would never happen in America..”

    That snickering you hear is your elected govt trying to keep from busting a gut..

  • avatar
    mcs

    “light so bright that bouncing off the reflective surface of the license plate it would blind a digital camera”

    If the digital camera is set for spot or centered-weighted metering, there shouldn’t be a problem.

  • avatar
    BMWnut

    There is a small flaw in the plan. Surely the reader would alert the operator when it cannot read a plate? The jammer would thus only serve to attract unwanted attention. You just can’t win…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Possibly assuming the system is designed to prompt the operator for manual data entries when it runs into an exception. However if it was designed to just bulk scan plates in a vicinity, it may simply log an exception and move on.

      The best part about Ronnie’s idea is if you ever get township rent-a-cops hassling you for an unscanable plate in years to come, (1) they will probably never make the connection the plate’s bright bulb is at fault and (2) will be unable to cite you for said bulb since its presence is OEM and required by law.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Looks like there is already a large selection of 12v-DC powered IR-Led lamps for use with night vision security systems. Be a very easy install, but then there is the matter of a “hiding them”. But at that point, they just look like LED flood lights and could pass them off as off-road/work lights.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    For at least 35 years but likely 40 or more, the USCG recorded the position, CF numbers/documented name of (virtually) every boat off the Southern California coast. The purpose was drug interdiction. I distinctly recall a USCG helicopter hovering over an anchorage and patiently observing every one of 120 vessels. You could see the personnel with binos reading (and presumably recording) the necessary info.

  • avatar
    Power6

    This seems to be a technical law issue. Much like people don’t rebel against speeding laws as long as enforcement is only sporadic. Once technology enables full enforcement the tune changes.

    The license plate is something you have to display, anyone can see it at any time. There really isn’t any expectation of privacy there. The solution to the this problem starts with the law.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    You guys are thinking it too hard. Only have on, paper (vinyl) plates advertising a local car dealer, 100% of the time.

    If a cop instructs you to put on REAL plates, tear off the paper plate in front of him, and there they are underneath. Done. No reason to even issue you a ‘fix it’.

    Then talk your friendly car dealer into some more FREE advertising.

    Until they make this an infraction or even carry a fine, keep at it.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      DenverMike – - –

      I like the way you think.

      I was just recalling the James Bond movies, from “Goldfinger” onward, that had Aston Martin cars (DB5′s?) with rotational license plates. Just build one of those and use a different one (not the real license plate) when coming into traffic patrol areas or tollgates with cameras. Switch back to the real one when stopped or parked or traveling in other ways where you are unlikely to be photographed.

      —————–

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Yep the good old James Bond flip plate. Two plates, a switch and a small motor – DONE. It was winner when the Mythbuster’s tried various ways to beat the speed camera.

        Second choice, the infamous “plate lost” written on a note taped in the rear window. You might get pulled over and get a warning, but the cameras would never see it.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Good point. Have zero plates on your car and when you get pulled over, you were on the way to the DMV because just this morning, you noticed your plates were missing or fell off.

          Make sure to never wash that area where the plate should be. But it would take a very hard nose cop to impound your car or even issue a ‘fix it’, if you’re apologetic and whatnot. Otherwise, keep driving it.

        • 0 avatar
          econobiker

          Years ago there was a Car and Driver article about a guy running a Mexican road race who had a boxy Crown Vic with license tag for a US police agency concealed to slide out in front of the trunk mounted license tag from inside the trunk. Neat idea but the driver ended up wrecking out the car…

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      In my state that could get you a nice jury trial for illegal attachment of plates, if the cop wants to be a jerk. Our temp plates are issued by the state (though attached by the dealer), no such thing as “dealer advertising plates”. Even not having a front plate is a rather steep fine if the cop wants it to be – they are NOT big into fix-it tickets here, since plates are an inspection item.

      On the other hand, all forms of automated ticketing are banned here. Though Portland does have a couple cars with license plate readers.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I got a fix-it ticket in California back when Grey Davis was Governor. The cop made it sound like a formality. When the ticket arrived in the mail, it was something like $380 in addition to proving that I’d addressed the fix-it issue. I fought it in court successfully, but it made me wonder about all the people here that think having a fancy car is reason not to mount a front plate. The reason they think that is because enforcement is incredibly selective.

        I used to work out of a place with a view of a corner where motorcycle cops would hide under a tree and write people for cell phone tickets all day long, most days of the week. They ignored everything else. They let people with no front plates go if they weren’t talking on their phones. They ignored people rolling through the stop signs. They ignored people blaring ‘music’ or riding bikes with straight pipes that rattled windows. They were there for cell phones. The only time I’ve seen people bothered for no front plate is on club drives on Palomar Mountain, when there are groups of similar cars all running without front plates. Then it’s no-front-plate day.

        I have a friend that got a red light camera ticket. His response was to pull his plates and put back on his dealer advertising plates. He kept the ruse going for almost two years. I don’t think he ever got busted on not displaying tags. He just stopped driving the car while waiting to settle a lawsuit with its manufacturer.

        We have a ridiculous number of laws, almost all of which carry absurdly high fines. The possibility of automated enforcement replacing lackadaisical public employees is pretty terrifying. As it is, you just sort of accept that they’ll nail you once in a while for completely subjective reasons based on whatever they’re using to raise revenue at the moment. Parking enforcement is a joke. There are spots on the streets around here that won’t be ticketed 9 times out of 10 when the meter-maids are out. If they can’t find enough low hanging fruit, they’ll change their interpretation of what’s a legal spot, or they’ll break out their levels to determine which way the street inclines and ticket everyone that has their wheels angled the wrong way on a street that a ball wouldn’t roll on if you set it down, or they’ll start measuring how far wheels are from curbs. Some days only your wheels have to be out of the red. Some days they’ll ticket people that only cast a shadow that’s adjacent to a red curb. I’ve heard of no appeals working. The first ticket I received was for parking on a block that had no signs but had first Wednesday of the month street sweeping.

        I live in a neighborhood where sidewalks are completely random. Some of them are along the curb. Some have a grass median between the curb and the sidewalk. Some blocks have no sidewalks. Some yards have sidewalks even though their neighbors don’t have them on either side. If you have a sidewalk, particularly the annoying ones that are up to fifteen feet from the curb, then you can and will be ticketed for parking in your own driveway if any part of your car hangs over the ‘sidewalk,’ even if the sidewalk is a useless stub that leads to a fence on one end and grass on the other.

        • 0 avatar
          Michael500

          That’s because in CA it’s not about “public safety” anymore, it’s about pensions for 55 yr old retirees. There is no money in finding a murderer, but there is big money in $500 tickets from “white” people that can pay. They have a “catch and release” policy towards illegals because there is no money in it. FORGET all that respect you had growing up towards Police & Firemen- they are just a different “gang” now. Don’t believe me? 70% of LA County Fireman go on “disability” to avoid paying taxes on their pensions-up from 10% a few years back. I’m supposed to have respect for this?

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        I guess the only alternative would be to have advertisement paper-plates from out of state, covering your state’s plates. But how P!$$ED would the cop be when you reveal Virginia (or whichever) state plates underneath?

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    They aren’t spying on you if you are on the road – unless its a private road. It’s fairly simple. You can take a picture of any car you want on the road as a private citizen. Guess what the cops get to do the same thing..

  • avatar
    Scribe39

    It sounds like a lot of “maybe” solutions. The problem is not the scanning, it is the storing. Get the law changed so nothing is stored unless it is a “hit” as stolen, etc.

  • avatar
    BeyondBelief

    We do traffic surveys occasionally to determine the amount of commuter traffic cutting through neighborhoods compared to local traffic. This is done by recording license plates and finding where those motorists live.

    I know…Big Brother…palpitations…to the fainting couches everyone lol

  • avatar
    stuki

    My money would be on camera technology being developed that would render all these cute, little hacks a bit pointless…

    If people were genuinely concerned, instead of just fashionably up in arms around the water cooler, ’cause that is what the man on TV tells them to be, it wouldn’t be all that hard to simply elect local enforcement that stopped bothering people for something as utterly non threatening as driving down the road without some dog leash name tag from Massa Gommiment affixed to their vehicle. The cars would still do what cars are designed to do, you know….. like move people and goods. It’s not like the darned plate is there for any other purpose, than to allow the thugs in government issued clown suits to spy on people. But of course, in Dystopia, as long as the man on TV says it is there to allow them to spy on “other” people; the scary ones; then they are really important…

    Another improvement would be to simply use the same technology oneself. Run a scanner and publicize the movement of all cars on a publicly available website. With enough people doing so, you’d easily get a crowd sourced database of people’s movements vastly more comprehensive than the one put together by the oppressors; rendering the latter’s irrelevant. And while everyone having access to everything, may be a step down from noone having access to anything, it is still better than a few privileged having access to everything, while the rest have access to nothing. As in every other power relationship, symmetry is requirement number one for the maintenance of any pretense of decency and legitimacy.

  • avatar
    Italian

    The problem isn’t the reading of the plates. The problem is storing the data.
    In Italy privacy laws are much stricter than in the States. It is illegal to do something like that.
    An example: We have speed camera traps (they are not really traps becouse by law there has to be a sign that tells you that speed cameras are bein used) that take 2 pic of your plate on the highway in an anonomous form (the computer just reads a number and doesn’t know who it belongs too) The sistem takes a pic and after a number of km takes another pic the computer then calculates the avrage speed you drove in that amount of road. If you were not speeding it will erase all information gathered in real time. It can not store the info. If you were speeding the sistem gets the owners information and you will eventually recive a notification for a fine. (Only the owner of the car or a person specificly authorised in writing by the owner can recive the notification)It is against the law to send the fine threw normal mail becouse 1 you could say you didn’t recive it and 2 it’s against your privacy rights let someone know by a therd party what you were doing or where you were.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Italian – - –

      Again, I agree. But please see my comment to “Scribe39″ above. Can they be trusted anymore?

      ————–

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      At lease one USA state (New Jersey) outlawed photo tickets because of the supposed need to be confronted by the ticket issuing officer.

      The real reason was/is because of so many small towns with police officers, police relatives, and small town politicians in that state. These people would get justified tickets for speeding without being able to pull out their police badges or police affiliation identification for a human officer to allow them off from the speeding ticket.

  • avatar
    Pastor Glenn

    The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.

    -Tacitus, Roman Senator.

    Some things never change.

    History repeats.

    If you don’t believe me, look at the news today – the EU (and more specifically Germany) are EXTREMELY upset. To the point where it may disrupt the “free trade” talks between the EU and US.

    Saw “NSA Ticks Off The World” on Lew Rockwell this morning. Here’s the money quote from the article:

    ““Martin Schulz, president of the EU Parliament and also a German, said if the report was correct, it would have a ‘severe impact’ on relations between the EU and the United States. He told French radio the United States had crossed a line. ‘I was always sure that dictatorships, some authoritarian systems, tried to listen … but that measures like that are now practiced by an ally, by a friend, that is shocking…’”

    “…dictatorships, … authoritarian systems…” Yep, Bushbama has dragged us so low that the rest of the world deems Amerika an authoritarian dictatorship, even if DC’s transfer of our money to their pockets continues buying polite hedging and euphemisms — for now.”

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    I guess what will make the license -plate readers irrelevant are “black boxes” in cars that contain GPS systems as well as data-logging to record accident events. The GPS systems mean that law enforcement can track your car anyway, with or without plates. That applies even when the vehicle is on private property and in your own garage. Having the ignition off is no protection: my BMW happily consumes its battery to keep all its computer systems powered up at all times.

    I am afraid that we have entered an irreversible realm of the disappearance of rights to individual privacy, and the technology has enabled that to happen. I can’t see any realistic, fool-proof way to stop it.

    ————-

  • avatar
    oldyak

    The current situation makes ’1984′ way too real!!!
    Something needs to be done!!!
    Unfortunately most of us are just too bone tired after trying to make ‘ends meet’ to actively DO something about it!
    Is this the Grand Plan..work us so hard that we cant put up a fight??
    Our civil liberties are being challenged left and right,but we are too busy LIVING???

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    It’s ironic how some of these people seem to be so worried about civil liberties, yet they have EZPass in their cars. And they carry cell phones. And they use credit cards, etc….

    If you really want to get off the grid, then you have to live off the land in the back country and not use any kind of electronic technology. And even then, you’d still be hard pressed to truly be “off the grid”


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