Privacy fears stoked by licence plate readers
WASHINGTON (AFP) - US police departments are rapidly expanding the use of automatic licence plate readers, sparking debate on whether the technology is a valuable crime-fighting tool or a massive invasion of privacy.
A recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warned that these readers - used in patrol cars or fixed locations on streets and highways - collect data on tens of millions of Americans who have committed no wrongdoing, with a potential for privacy abuses.
The devices scan licence plate numbers and match these against databases to help police locate stolen cars, criminals or missing children. Backers say this can free police officers from a monotonous task and help solve crimes.
But with many Americans uneasy over government surveillance of the Internet, the expansion of this technology has sparked concerns about Big Brother.