Police in Texas Embrace Repurposing as Mobile Debt Collectors

Texas police have started working for Vigilant Solutions on a per commission basis to pass the company fines assessed as a “25% processing fee” in exchange for the police deploying license plate reading technology.

Vigilant collects license plate data on all drivers, not merely suspects, which allows citizens to be tracked so that personal information and patterns can be detected.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) warns that this program is dangerous because:

  • It turns police into debt collectors, who have to keep swiping credit cards to keep the free equipment.
  • It turns police into data miners, who use the privacy of local drivers as currency.
  • It not-so-subtly shifts police priorities from responding to calls and traffic violations to responding to a computer’s instructions.
  • Policy makers and the public are unable to effectively evaluate the technology since the contract prohibits police from speaking honestly and openly about the program.
  • The model relies on debt: there’s no incentive for criminal justice leaders to work with the community to reduce the number of capias warrants, since that could result in losing the equipment.
  • People who have committed no crimes whatsoever have their driving patterns uploaded into a private system and no opportunity to control or watchdog how that data is disseminated.
  • Read more from the original EFF story on Texas using license plate readers.

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