By on October 1, 2014

DRN LPR Guide

Aside from GPS-equipped starter interrupt systems, lenders have another tool to repossess a vehicle, with the added benefit of using the data obtained to acquire better contracts: license plate recognition.

According to Auto Remarketing, the CEO of Fort Worth, Texas-based Digital Recognition Network, Chris Metaxas, says his company’s LPR technology has found 55 percent of their customers’ assets up to 100 miles away from where the paperwork claimed the vehicle would have originally been. As most assets are with the lenders’ customers, any deviation from that is a red flag.

Thus, originators seeking to minimize risk could use LPR data to “determine the truth of a statement someone may make on an application,” in turn enhancing the process so better contracts are entered into a given portfolio:

If you think about what a bank does in translating risk mitigation into their ability to grow their book of business, the loans they write, the policies they write, it is substantial and is exponential. What you lose on the back end is only a fraction of what you write on the front end.

Earlier this year, DRN and another LPR company entered into a lawsuit against Utah governor Gary Herbert and attorney general Sean Reyes over First Amendment issues regarding legislation that prohibited such technology from being used to analyze the image of the license plate in question. The lawsuit is part of an ongoing battle between privacy advocates who claim the private data tied to a plate can have the potential to be abused, and by LPR proponents like DRN who believe license plate numbers contain no such thing, citing the public nature of the plate itself.

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54 Comments on “Metaxas: License Plate Recognition Can Improve Originations...”


  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    “Reads […] 8000 license plates daily and stores the time and location of each car. […] The companies sell stored license data to clients”

    How on earth can this be a lawful undertaking? Don’t you guys have any privacy laws in the US? I’m really baffled. This kind of location data is the wet dream material of Gestapo and Stasi officers. On top of that, collection happens involuntarily, by private, commercial companies. That’s a notch above even the data giveaway that happens with smartphones. Disgusting!

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Reductio ad Hitlerium in the first post? I think that’s a new record!

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        TTAC’s already seen a couple of threads “Godwinned” by the 1st post.

      • 0 avatar
        Sjalabais

        I’m sorry that a concerned citizen with a solid understanding of history posted first. Lets all cheer for full scale data collection and see what happens! Not.

        Disclaimer: I was born in the GDR and have a good grip on what I refer to. Family members of mine have been under surveillance, others have worked with untangling the files that were left over.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      “How on earth can this be a lawful undertaking? Don’t you guys have any privacy laws in the US? I’m really baffled. This kind of location data is the wet dream material of Gestapo and Stasi officers. On top of that, collection happens involuntarily, by private, commercial companies. ”

      Precisely the point, it’s done by private, commercial companies. NOT the US gov’t. The Constitution restricts the GOVERNMENT, it doed not restrict private companies (not that this would necessarily be Unconstitutional anyways). It’s basically you with a notebook and pen walking down the street jotting down all cars’ locations by license plate number on a much bigger scale. And that ain’t illegal. It remains to be seen if it’s actionable in court (IE, can it be used as evidence) but merely collecting the data is not illegal.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Police are currently using the technology and can instantly hit on stolen cars/plates, warrants, expired tags, Amber Alerts, etc.

        Like shooting fish in a barrel.

      • 0 avatar
        Sjalabais

        The data is sold to various government entities, thus reducing this point to semantics. From my understanding, it might be sold to anyone willing to pay for it.

      • 0 avatar
        jjster6

        Equating me with a pen and paper and large scale electronic surveillance is absurd.

        And when the government starts reading the databases and forces the private companies to be their agents the private company argument collapses.

        Once you feel your freedoms slipping away it’s already too late.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Which is why I don’t understand the cry of “government intrusion” from so many. While the government does overstep its boundaries, the real threat is from Corporate America where the never ending drive to separate you from your cash runs unchecked. And not to be a broken record, nobody seems to give a rats a$$….

        • 0 avatar
          Sjalabais

          The difference between corporations and government doing the job is negligible. The issue is the constant trawling of data. That opens for abuse of all sorts, no matter by whom.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “How on earth can this be a lawful undertaking?”

      It’s similar to the Google car driving through your neighborhood, filming everything. I’m sure that’s legal whereever you are, too.

      The difference is that repo men use this plate recognition data to search for specific needles in a large haystack. There’s no expectation of privacy in public places. Perhaps there should be, but there isn’t.

      • 0 avatar
        Sjalabais

        No, it’s not similar. Faces, license plates and other identity markers are mandated to be blurred.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The legal principle is the same. You don’t have an expectation of privacy in public places. Nobody is going to arrest Google for filming your house, your car or whatever.

          The fact that Google chooses to obscure license plates does not change the fact that they have aggregated the data and own it. You have no idea what they may choose to do with it.

          • 0 avatar
            Sjalabais

            This is just not true. They are obliged to delete this kind of data, and failure to comply will carry a fine with it. At least, that’s the case in Norway and Germany, which I can speak for.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If you think that Google is deleting data that it has collected, then you’re incredibly naive.

            Blurring the appearance of the plate in a photograph is not the same thing as deleting the record of its existence.

            And in any case, the power of data comes from the ability to aggregate it from many sources and process it. We are all creating trails of our existence; the ability to compile numerous sources and link them together is the issue.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @sjalabais

            This is a chasm as wide as the Atlantic ocean when it comes to what privacy law is in the US and what it is in the EU. There are MANY things related to privacy in the US that are perfectly legal here, and utterly illegal there.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Argh. This is not a matter of privacy.

            When you park your car on a public street, you are leaving it in a public place. If people want to look at it, photograph it, or jot down your plate number and where you parked it, there isn’t anything that you can do to prevent that. You can’t demand that level of privacy in a public space.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I completely agree that the plate number is public *here in the US*. In my opinion, the ownership information attached to it probably should not be. In the US, in most (if not all) states anyone has access to that ownership information. That is the privacy concern for me, not the plate itself. Just seeing my car on some random street with ME license plate 125-258, should not be enough for some crazed wingnut to find out where I live. The police, you bet, with probable cause. BMW Financial, well, they still own about $10K of that car for a few more months, so I would say they have an interest in knowing too, if I stop paying them. They already know my address anyway, I’m OK with their knowing where their collateral is.

            In the most of Europe, a random person or business cannot find out any information from a license plate number. Big difference in the law. And I believe Sjalabais is correct that *in Europe* recording of that sort of information (faces, license plates, even house facades) and storing it is not allowed everywhere. Sure, it happens – I have pictures from my last trip that show license plates, houses, and peoples faces. But if a business tried to do that and monetize it, they will be in the same pickle Google found themselves in with Streetview, never mind a private license plate data collection scheme. It is considered private information there and is protected, even though you can individually see it from a public space. And even in places where it is legal to collect that data, there is a general “right to be forgotten” that means you can tell them to remove it.

            So arrgh yourself, PCH. :-)

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            People who photograph that car are unlikely to sell the data, though. There needs to be an “Opt-Out” option.

            If I want to take a photo of a Trans Am that I think looks neat, that’s completely different. I’m not trying to sell advertising or control the owner’s insurance rates.

            How long will it be before people leave a piece of something over their plates while parked. Legal? Maybe in a few places. Will it be done? Yes.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            It doesn’t matter whether or not the information is sold. It’s completely irrelevant to the point being made here, namely that we cannot have an expectation of privacy in public space.

            I guess that I need to be more clear: If this stuff concerns us (and it concerns me), then we need to either outlaw or else severely restrict the use of plate reading technology. There is no privacy violation per se, there is no constitutional rights violation, and there is currently no crime being committed by using them.

            The only way to address this is to attack the machinery and the use of the machinery by criminalizing it. If we are smart, then we will recognize that the ability of these devices to do far more work than one person could do by hand makes them a genuine game changer. But this is going to have to come from Congress and/or from state governments; the ACLU can’t save us from this, since there is no constitutional problem.

          • 0 avatar
            Italian

            “Sjalabais: This is just not true. They are obliged to delete this kind of data, and failure to comply will carry a fine with it. At least, that’s the case in Norway and Germany, which I can speak for.”

            It’s the same in Italy. I think that in most of Europe the privacy laws are very similar.

            The tag scanning technology used in that way would be illegal here 100%.

  • avatar
    cirats

    Wow – Not to get too far off-topic, but how long before this gets extended to facial recognition and private companies are able to track the movements of the human populace in public and sell the resulting information??

    Interesting that this is apparently originating as a tool for the repo business because it seems to have far more value in other areas.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      I’d like to borrow something I read recently in a little webcomic called xkcd: “In the 60s, Marvin Minsky assigned a couple of undergrads to spend the summer programming a computer to use a camera to identify objects in a scene. He figured they’d have the problem solved by the end of the summer. Half a century later, we’re still working on it.”

      So to answer your question “How long?”, “a really long time.”

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      Facial recognition software has so many false positives that pretty much any attempt to actually use it gets abandoned shortly thereafter.

      The only reason that automated plate readers can figure out numbers and letters is because the United States Postal Service has a database with hundreds of thousands of images of numbers and letters that have been tagged (by humans) with the correct number or letter. The USPS has been sorting mail by machine for decades and is extraordinarily good at it, thanks to this database.

      Software developers use this database to train and test their algorithms and therefore can build working systems. Training a facial recognition database is a little bit harder… Even the government (which has access to drivers license photos of nearly every adult in the US) hasn’t been able to make it work well enough to be useful.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      Interesting that three comments focus on the doability of the issue, less on the substance of it.

      • 0 avatar
        This Is Dawg

        While their discussion is actually very interesting, I agree that the capabilities of the system are less of my concern than the creepiness of it. I don’t want facebook to be able to purchase a history of where I’ve parked, and I sure as hell don’t need the police, given their stellar record of fairness, to have access to something like this.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I have MUCH less issue with this for repo purposes than for law enforcement, with some caveats. The car is the bank’s property until it is paid for, so they should have the ability to track it. I DO have an issue with them being allowed to keep and sell that data.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      Exactly on point. That’s the real issue. Data used by law enforcement can be subject to legal standards (subpoenae, warrants, court orders, etc.)

      Private ownership and resale of this data is out of our hands. This is an area where we really need our representatives to draft some solid legislation to provide appropriate controls.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      The bank doesn’t own my car. You’re OK with the bank tracking me?

      Law Enforcement is subject to much more scrutiny than a private company. What LE is allowed to capture, store, and how they use it is generally defined by legislative mandate. Private companies are much more free to do what they want and don’t have to tell you about it.

      I can understand concerns with LE, but to defend the much more abusive use by private industry is foolish.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Obviously we aren’t talking about using this in America, as the parking lot shows a Pajero, a Mercedes van, a Range Rover and an H3.

    WAT COUNTRY IS THIS MAYNE?!

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    It’s the resale of the data that makes DRN evil. The fact that 400+ companies are buying DRN’s data, and their business model is so profitable that “two other companies are building national networks similar to DRN,” is scary.

    Then again, corporations are people now, right?

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Instead of crying over a funny phrase, you might gain some sanity by simply realizing that people can do bad things so the important thing is to reduce the power people have over other people.

      It’s not just corporations, but all large institutions including governments that need to be kept in check.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      That’s irrelevant. Whether a. “Person ” does something or a corporation does it there is no difference. If it’s illegal (or should be) the end is the same.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Of course there’s a difference. A well-funded corporation can afford to compile that data and use it to reduce personal privacy and to otherwise commoditize us. This ability to aggregate massive amounts of data quickly changes the game.

        Libertarians may not care about the loss of personal privacy to private enterprise, but I do.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I feel like covering up my plates every time I park my car.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      Automaticly turning plates once the ignition is off might become a good option for people concerned with their privacy.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      This brings up an interesting question: Can you cover your plate when parked in public? Can govt or private property owners require that your plate be visible? If you can cover it, is there a market for a product that drops a cover over the plate whenever the car is turned off?

      • 0 avatar
        This Is Dawg

        Suddenly, an automated one of these seems pretty attractive:

        http://www.autowerksofamerica.com/itemimages/Altec_Show_N_Go.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        In most if not all jurisdictions, you have to display a plate or plates when on the street. In fact, in many jurisdictions parking enforcement can give you a ticket and fine just for not displaying a front plate when parked – that is the case here in Maine. No plates would equate to an unregistered vehicle, and you would certainly get towed and impounded. On private property, this varies by town here – technically in my city I cannot have an unregistered vehicle that is in public view for more than a certain period of time. I can’t recall the time period – 30 days? It would have to be behind a fence or in a garage. That is normally only enforced if there is a complaint – otherwise they are pretty reasonable about it as long as your yard does not look like a junkyard.

        License plates have been a requirement for over 100 years, I fail to see why they are suddenly a concern. The issue is that it is now possible to easily collect data on them, and potentially use that data for a profit. This is what raises privacy concerns, not simply having an identifiable plate on a car. I could even see allowing a person to go to the DMV and personally look up who a plate belongs to. But not a linked in computer doing it wholesale. I don’t really have an issue with the police trolling around reading plates looking for stolen cars, outstanding warrants and such. I have much more of a problem with towns reading every plate that enters the town like some places in CA are doing.

        Here is my suggestion for how to remain legally anonymous, if this really bothers you. Found your own corporation, and let the corporation own the car. You can structure a corporation such that it is quite difficult to figure out who it belongs to. Particularly if it is chartered off-shore. Seems like a lot of work for very little benefit though.

  • avatar
    Slocum

    The real source of the privacy problem here is the license plates themselves — being forced to drive around with an ID number displayed to the world. It’s about the same as being required to wear a sign pinned to your chest at all times with your social-security number printed on it.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I think there is a strong societal interest in being able to identify who owns a particular car. Just like with probable cause, you need to identify yourself to the police. You would be very unhappy if a car with no plates runs over your kid and doesn’t stop. But that should be a police issue, with appropriate judicial oversight.

      I don’t think that information should be public. In the case of a car that is collateral for a loan, I think it makes sense that the lender should have record of the registration info of the car. But they should not be allowed to disclose that info to others, only use it for internal purposes – like repossessions. So I think they should be able to share the info with the Repo company, but neither should be able to sell that info. Or keep it once the lien is settled.

  • avatar
    pragmatist

    If they ONLY matched plates to vehicles in question, and deleted all others then it might be more acceptable.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    A couple of states, including Connecticut, no longer issue validation stickers for license plates. They apparently think that the cops with their plate readers can find all they need to know simply from the plate number.

    I don’t think we are far from a time when scanners will be able to read VIN’s directly without bothering with license plates.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Even if a cop doesn’t have a plate reader, they can still just type the plate number into the application on the laptop in the cop car, or radio it in for a check. Not having stickers saves the state a lot of money. And it does make it at least a little harder for cops to nail you for an expired registration. I doubt every cop in CT has a plate scanner yet. There are only a handful of them in the entire state of Maine at this time. Portland has 2-3 cruisers with them, I think the Staties have a few.

      I will note – you see those 2-3 in the bad parts of town almost exclusively. That is where the easy hunting is going to be. And yes, Portland Maine does actually have bad parts of town!

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    Just a technical issue: Why can I reply to some comments, and not to others? Screenshot with missing reply-button:

    http://s30.postimg.org/sp7dl3fw1/ttac_reply.png

    Newest/updated Firefox on Win8

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Recursive replies only nest to the sixth (?) level, to prevent the comments section from becoming an unreadable mess. If you want to reply to someone after that, just go up until you find the fifth-level reply, regardless of who made it, and put “@[name of whomever you’re replying to]” before your comment. Hope this helps.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    It seems to me that the problem is the state, or some other group, selling the data on what tag number is you.

    I actually can’t think of anyone that I need to give that data to except someone who needs it for parking lot security. If you want privacy, make it illegal to provide or sell owner info for anything other than a tight list of uses.

    It’s actually the case that my insurer doesn’t even need the tag number, he needs the VIN.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    1.8 billion plates read. Sweet. No wonder traffics a B.

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