The federal government's plan to build a nationwide database of information culled from license-plate scanners has been canceled. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security quickly reversed course on the proposed project late Wednesday, saying top officials within the department and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency were unaware of it.
Earlier Wednesday, the plans revealed the federal department wanted a database that would track vehicle license-plate numbers that either passed through cameras or were manually entered into the system. It also wanted a feature that would allow it to upload at least 5,000 plate records at a time.
Privacy advocates had feared the massive database would be another intrusion into the lives of everyday Americans. While the database intended to help catch "criminal aliens and absconders," according to the original contract proposal, the ACLU said it could also capture precise details on the locations and daily habits of millions of law-abiding citizens.
Left unclear in the business solicitation was how the data would be stored, how long data would be kept, who would have access to it, and whether it was merely used for border enforcement or could also be more broadly utilized by law enforcement.