We love technology. It expands our world. It eases our work. It can make us safer. It has the capacity to connect us.
But as stories both global and local demonstrate, technology use can also overreach and intrude. Ask Angela Merkel, Germany’s prime minister, who had her phone tapped by the NSA. Or ask the scofflaw in the Walmart parking lot on Roosevelt who had the boot affixed after the village’s new Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) scanned his plate and pegged him for outstanding parking tickets.
Actually, we aren’t concerned about finding new ways to catch scofflaws. But we share the concern of the American Civil Liberties Union which has recently sent Forest Park and other towns Freedom of Information Act requests to find out just how the village is using its new ALPR cameras. The worry is that hundreds of other Kmart shoppers are having their license plates scanned while looking for the scofflaw in the haystack. Between May and October, Forest Park told the ACLU, 66,707 license plates were scanned and 52 citations were issued. The ACLU worries a gigantic NSA-like database is being built that allows the government to know where you were at many hours of the day.
In a demonstration to the Review, the police department made clear that the scanning equipment is cleared of all data every time the system is shut down. That’s good enough for us. But we appreciate the wary eye of both liberals and libertarians concerned about government data collection.