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This police car is equipped with license plate scanner,... This police car is equipped with license plate scanner, in Alexandria, Va. The Homeland Security Department is proposing that a private company give it access to a nationwide database of license plate tracking information, according to a federal contract proposal. (AP photo).
The Department of Homeland Security wants to build a massive database of information collected from license-plate scanners across the country.

In an advertisement soliciting bids to build the database, Homeland Security said the information would help catch "criminal aliens and absconders." Privacy advocates worry such a database will also ensnare the rest of us.

License plate scanners have become controversial because they don't only record location data of criminals or assorted absconders. They collect data on every license plate that passes. With enough data, those with access can map the habits of ordinary citizens.

"The reason people want to gather that information is because they want to track your movements, and where people go can reveal a great deal about them," said Catherine Crump, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. It could track, "where you go to the doctor, your therapist, your church, your gun range, your daily routine. ... So I think Americans have good reason to be concerned about the DHS proposal."

The proposal comes at a time that many Americans are already wary of government intrusion into their personal lives. Courts are currently debating whether the National Security Agency can continue collecting the everyday phone records of millions of citizens.

Department of Homeland Security officials did not return a phone call seeking comment on the database proposal Wednesday, and the contract solicitation did not specify how data would be protected, how it would be stored or for how long it would be maintained.

The database would track vehicle license plate numbers that either pass through cameras or are manually entered into the system. The information would be shared with law enforcement. It also would include a "target vehicle" feature that would allow the agency to upload at least 5,000 license plate records at a time.

Details of the database proposal were first reported by The Washington Post.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, would be a primary user of the database, according to the DHS filing. It's not immediately clear how the agency would use the technology to track immigrants, though DHS did say it expected the database to reduce the number of hours agents spend on surveillance.

Officials with ICE did not return a phone call Wednesday afternoon.

"There's no indication here that DHS has put in any privacy protections, so we don't know for what purposes agents could access this," Crump said. "How many people would access it? For what crimes? For less-serious crimes? What audit procedures would be in place?"

Private companies have already been capturing license-plate data through the use of scanners. Some advertise that they already have amassed one billion data points, according to Crump. Because they are private, there's not much known about how the data is used or brokered.

Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached via email at peter.bigelow@teamaol.com and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.

Related: LAPD Chevy Caprice PPV With License Plate Scanner | TRANSLOGIC

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      Why??????????Phones Email Whats next?Bedroom cams?
        • 1 Year Ago
        It's been tested and proven criminals can hack into Skype equipped TVs and computers...What's to prevent other agencies from doing the same thing? Who's to say they don't do so with a camera if you have it hooked into your computer for face to face communication? It's a high tech world now and there are many out there with the ability to use it to their advantage.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Screw Uncle Sam.
      • 1 Year Ago
      OK how about this... Someone puts a tracking device on vehicles owned and used by all top brass at NSA. Once their actions are monitored for a couple of days the information is made public. Put it on the evening news. Let those talk shows gab about so and so and where they spend their time. I bet there would be a whole lot of crap flying and maybe just maybe we won't suffer their intrusions in our lives!
      • 1 Year Ago
      just scary....
      -- Blackbelt Ron
      • 1 Year Ago
      George Orwell's "Big Brother" Government... If you read his book (1984) Then you see what he wrote as coming true under Big Bro Obama. Mr. Orwell saw it coming - only instead of 1984 it is 2014...
        • 1 Year Ago
        @-- Blackbelt Ron
        A couple of other good reads are "THE TURNER DIARIES" and "HUNTER". Put aside all the racist references, well not all sadly, and you will see what is going on and our future.
      • 1 Year Ago
      The DHS should stay out of our lives. They, along with Obama (ugh!) and the Socialist Democrats are determined to destroy this great country of ours.
        • 1 Year Ago
        I agree, but, I wonder where do they think we all are going to live once the country is destroyed??
      • 1 Year Ago
      The Government can’t even keep up with people who are dead and who are fictional to address voting, welfare, social security, and other government program abuses. They‘re all hypocrites who benefit financially from legislations they pass. Al Gore went from a measly $2-3 million net worth when he left office to over $200 million pushing his global warming agenda. They own so much financial stock to the point that if they fail to pass an agenda, they stand to lose lots of money. Liars, hypocrites, bullies who tend to blame others, deny their shortcomings…kind of like your kids, huh?
      • 1 Year Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      Geroge Orwell?
      • 1 Year Ago
      Syria, Mexico, Venezuela, Egypt, Ukraine, North Korea, China, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, USA, etc. etc. Is Armageddon around the corner? I just don't see humanity making any progress for World Peace, on the contrary, hate, depravity, corruption and decadence continue to grow at a an alarming rate. It has been 2000 years since Jesus walked on this earth and His message of "love one another" has fallen on deaf ears. Yup, human wisdom is making everything better for everyone... right?
      • 1 Year Ago
      Lets face the facts. if our law enforcement can't catch criminals with what tools they have now, either they are stupid, or to lazy to do so. All this bull-sh!! about this new database will help catch criminals an illegals, is just bull-s!!!, especially when our government is trying to let them in free. So blow that smoke up someone elses rear end. . I ain't buying it. Its just to track an keep tabs on the honest american citizens.
        • 1 Year Ago
        The information will be sold to businesses who will send out more junk mail.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Big Bro is collecting car plate location and sending Government agents into all media rooms to gather "guide" what gets reported...! "We the People" used to be Governments boss Now GOVERNMENT is Our Boss.! And soon, those who don't follow Big Brother's commands Will suddenly "disappear"..! America the Beautiful has turned very dark....
        • 1 Year Ago
        Our once free media has willingly become so compliant with the liberal agenda they will soon be giving TASS a run for their money as the most controlled news organization in history. And the funny part of the whole thing is they screwed themselves into it! The not so funny part is that 'we, the people' let them get away with it.
          • 1 Year Ago
          I give you the King of hacking. Keith Rupert Murdoch, AC, KSG (born 11 March 1931) is an Australian American business magnate. Murdoch became managing director of Australia's News Limited, inherited from his father, in 1952. He is the founder, Chairman and CEO of global media holding company News Corporation, the world's second-largest media conglomerate, and its successors News Corp and 21st Century Fox after the conglomerate split on 28 June 2013.In the 1950s and '60s, he acquired various newspapers in Australia and New Zealand, before expanding into the United Kingdom in 1969, taking over the News of the World followed closely by The Sun. He moved to New York in 1974 to expand into the US market, but retained interests in Australia and Britain. In 1981, he bought The Times, his first British broadsheet, and became a naturalised US citizen in 1985. In 1986, keen to adopt newer electronic publishing technologies, he consolidated his UK printing operations in Wapping, causing bitter industrial disputes. His News Corporation acquired Twentieth Century Fox (1985), HarperCollins (1989) and The Wall Street Journal (2007). He formed BSkyB in 1990 and during the 1990s expanded into Asian networks and South American television. By 2000 Murdoch's News Corporation owned over 800 companies in more than 50 countries with a net worth of over $5 billion. In July 2011 Murdoch faced allegations that his companies, including the News of the World, owned by News Corporation, had been regularly hacking the phones of celebrities, royalty and public citizens. He faces police and government investigations into bribery and corruption by the British government and FBI investigations in the US. On 21 July 2012, Murdoch resigned as a director of News International
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