Once the Supreme Court equated money with speech, we officially went up for sale to the highest bidders. That's how these Big Data companies get away with compiling our data and tracking our every move:
Most states and civil liberties organizations have focused their concerns about license plate readers on police use and how long police agencies keep the data. There, the debate is clearly outlined: Lawmakers must weigh the invasion of privacy for law-abiding citizens against law enforcement's ability to quickly solve crimes and find missing people.
In private industry, the data is used for everything from risk management to background checks. Insurance companies, lawyers, private detectives, risk management groups and mortgage companies are among the industries that can see where you've been. They can easily and legally see license plate data that's been combined with a pile of other personal information, including driving records.
Your records meet Big Data's First Amendment Right
Companies that collect the data are operating in a virtual Wild West. There are almost no laws regulating who can collect license plate data and what can be done with it. In Syracuse, for instance, Destiny USA is collecting license plate data from the mall parking lots.
Whenever someone tries to make a law, big data businesses fight back with lawyers and an unusual weapon: the First Amendment. They argue that because license plate data starts as a snapshot on a public street, your records are their right.
The largest private database of license plate records is owned by Digital Recognition Network, also known as DRN. DRN serves private industry, but also collects data that's used by law enforcement. It's sister company, Vigilant Solutions, provides license plate technology and data to law enforcement.
To keep the data piling up, DRN has contracts with 550 companies that hunt the streets across the nation with car-mounted, fast-action cameras.
When lawmakers in Utah and Arkansas tried to stop DRN, the company filed First Amendment lawsuits.