ICE Tracking License Plates

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has gained access to a nationwide license plate recognition database from Vigilant Solutions.  The system gives ICE access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking for vehicles owned by individuals ICE is seeking to apprehend.

The result is a massive vehicle-tracking network generating as many as 100 million sightings per month, each tagged with a date, time, and GPS coordinates of the sighting.  ICE agents would be able to query that database in two ways. A historical search would turn up every place a given license plate has been spotted in the last five years, a detailed record of the target’s movements. That data could be used to find a given subject’s residence or even identify associates if a given car is regularly spotted in a specific parking lot.

ICE agents can also receive instantaneous email alerts whenever a new record of a particular plate is found — a system known internally as a “hot list.” (The same alerts can also be funneled to the Vigilant’s iOS app.) This is particularly troubling given ICE’s recent move to expand deportations beyond criminal offenders, fueling concerns of politically motivated enforcement. In California, state officials have braced for rumored deportation sweeps targeted at sanctuary cities. In New York, community leaders say they’ve been specifically targeted for deportation as a result of their activism. With automated license plate recognition, that targeting would only grow more powerful.

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