Planning on visiting Florida’s Longboat Key island? According to Wikipedia, Maria Sharapova is a resident, which is probably reason enough to visit the beach there. Should you make the trip, however, you should be aware that the local police will record your arrival and departure. They will also be keeping the records of said arrival and departure for as long as ten years. Whether you — or the ACLU — like it or not.
Longboat Key police chief Peter Cumming (snicker) told a local television station that he’d be retaining the data for up to a decade whether there is any legitimate purpose for doing so or not.
The ACLU notes that
Automatic license plate readers have the potential to create permanent records of virtually everywhere any of us has driven, radically transforming the consequences of leaving home to pursue private life, and opening up many opportunities for abuse. The tracking of people’s location constitutes a significant invasion of privacy, which can reveal many things about their lives, such as what friends, doctors, protests, political events, or churches a person may visit.
In our society, it is a core principle that the government does not invade people’s privacy and collect information about citizens’ innocent activities just in case they do something wrong. Clear regulations must be put in place to keep the government from tracking our movements on a massive scale.
Your humble author’s primary concern with all this is about 40% government misuse and about 60% “public-private partnerships”. We’re all familiar with the junk mail generated by companies who purchase access to DMV records. What will happen on the day when some enterprising company manages to purchase access to camera records from multiple municipalities and run them through a couple D-Waves? How much would you pay to know where your neighbor’s husband spends his evenings? How much would your employer pay to know whether you visit a bar or a bath house or a mosque or an evangelical church? How much would a burglar pay to know when someone is two hundred miles away from their home?
If you think nobody’s interested in buying those records, you’re probably wrong. There’s going to be a long line of private companies lined up as cash-strapped municipalities with cameras realized what they’re sitting on — and I can easily take a guess at who will be first in line.