After a day at work, you pull into the parking lot of your apartment complex and someone knows you've arrived home. Your trip to the grocery store is also noted, and if you grab a friend and drive to the beach for a weekend of sun and surf, someone knows about that as well.
Welcome to the world of Automated License Plate Readers, or ALPRs. ALPRs use optical character recognition (OCR) to identify your car's license plate, and it then stores that information, along with the date, time and location where the plate was read, in a database.
Who has access to the databases of stored information is the question since location databases contain according to a recent New York Times article, "a record of people visiting drug treatment centers, strip clubs, casinos, abortion clinics ... churches and synagogues, ... counseling sessions and chemotherapy treatments."
ALPR cameras can be mounted on utility poles, streetlights, road signs, overpasses or on police cars, and they can photograph every passing license plate. Software advances allow ALPR systems to run on PCs or laptop computers, which can be within police vehicles.
ALPRs capture around 2,000 plates a minute, on vehicles traveling up to 120 miles per hour. Manufacturers in the ALRP space include PlateSmart Technologies, 3M, OpenALPR Software Solutions LLC, Jenoptik, Inex Technologies, Pelco, Cyber Vision, Signatur ITS, Senstar Corporation, DTK Software, NDI Recognition Systems, Neurosoft Sp. z o.o, ARH Inc, Rekor Recognition Systems, Inc, PIPS Technology, ACTi Corporation, and Avigilon.
OpenALPR offers its software for free on Github, and that software can allow an ordinary, internet-connected surveillance camera to capture license plates across a four-lane highway with 99% accuracy.
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