By Jeff Girod
That’s because you’re probably on camera. Local and state police departments have been photographing millions of cars, tracking the movement and location of every vehicle with a license plate, according to a study announced last week by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Using automated scanners affixed to police cars, bridges and buildings, images are recorded for every car—moving or parked—then uploaded to a police database.
Sometimes these records are kept for weeks. Sometimes they’re kept for months. Some are even kept forever. (It’s comforting to know that somewhere there exists a tasteful 5” x 7“ of my ’93 Grand Am.)
The ACLU says the scanners assemble “a single, high-resolution image of our lives.” If it’s a picture of me driving anywhere in SoCal, I have a beet red face and my mouth is making the “F” sound.
The ACLU described this mass surveillance as “startling” and wants all records deleted immediately. (As if anything in government—other than bankruptcy—happens that fast.)
Then again, why should anyone be offended by an invasion of privacy? Most of us give away our privacy like Halloween candy.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram . . . we can’t order a plate of Olive Garden spaghetti or hear a Taylor Swift song without posting it to every person we’ve met on an escalator.
I wish most of us cared a little more about privacy. Like when I ask, “How was your day?” that doesn’t mean, “Please tell me everything about your cat, your rash and every ex-boyfriend you’ve had since Girl Scouts.”
Who cares if someone knows where I’m driving? It doesn’t take a sophisticated government database to crack that code. I have a house and a job. If I’m not at one location, I’m probably at the other (or somewhere in between muttering at the sky).
We get videotaped everywhere we go. You can’t walk into a Vons Pavilions without seeing yourself on camera. If I’m willing to forgo a fraction of my constitutional rights to let some nervous stock boy film me buying toilet paper, I’m probably OK getting ID’d while driving on a freeway.
I thought everyone already knew we were being filmed on the freeway. Isn’t that what traffic cameras are for? I’ll save you the time of downloading the iPhone traffic app: Here’s the forecast for traffic on the 91 freeway for now until forever: Soul sucking. I’ve seen granite move faster—and it’s still more brisk than most Caltrans crane operators.
The real question we should be asking is: This is the best plan we’ve got for preventing the next 9-11? To just wait and hope a terrorist drives by and does something “terrorist-y”?
This current system seems completely backwards. It’s like waiting at the airport check-in with a giant magnifying glass and hoping that someone actually walks through the boarding gate holding a black bowling ball that says “TNT” with a lit string hanging out of it.
Here’s a better idea: Do actual police work. Figure out where the terrorists are hiding—THEN start videotaping all of the cars and writing down license plate numbers. I’m no criminal mastermind and I didn’t graduate from an FBI academy, but I did watch a 40-year-old episode of Columbo this one time on basic cable.
It seems like there’s a more effective way of catching terrorists than recording every car in America everyday for forever. Who’s got that kind of time? Do we have so many extra cops that we can afford to designate some as tripods in bulletproof vests?
No time for murderers, muggers, rapists, gang bangers, taggers, carjackers and thieves. Oh no! Our nation’s police force is too busy recording every family SUV, Prius and Civic in case some old lady in Hemet suddenly decides to start her own jihadist sleeper cell.
Take as much of my privacy as you want, just make it mean something. Somehow I don’t think you’re going to catch that many bad guys if you’re thatching together a precious moments keepsake of every soccer mom in the carpool lane.
And stop worrying so much about my coming’s and going’s. Just lay a Twinkie on my sofa cushion. I’ll be along soon.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org