Civil Liberties

Covered at Reason 24/7: Police Want Traffic Cameras Used for Wider Surveillance


Reason 24/7

Traffic cameras. Don't you hate the damned things? It's bad enough having some robo-snitch ratting on you for going a few miles over the limit on an open road or shaving a yellow without worrying that it actually picked up a guy passing you but snapped your plate instead. Then again, it could be worse — traffic cameras could just be general surveillance cameras, tracking your face and your license plate and monitoring the public in a wild display of Bloomberg-esque mission creep.

Come to think of it, that just may come to pass. Lawmakers in both Washington and Oregon are considering changing the law to allow traffic cameras to be used as … well … Big Brother's all-seeing eyes. The Washington measure already passed the House and awaits Senate approval. Oregon hasn't advanced that far, yet, but give 'em time.

Police say they won't use the cameras to track people for minor crimes. Of course not.

From Northwest Watchdog:

PORTLAND – Police in Oregon and Washington want to expand the reach of red light cameras to catch the really bad guys – murderers, child abductors, armed robbers.

Both state legislatures are considering proposals that would eliminate provisions in the state laws that keep police from using the cameras for anything but red light running.

Police say they just want to use it to catch felons.

In Washington, police say being able to use the license plate image captured by red light cameras might have helped them catch a suspect in the drive-by shooting of a 21-year-old woman in Seattle. As the law stands now, police can only use the image to enforce traffic infractions.

But civil liberties advocates fear changing the red light camera law is one step closer to broadening government surveillance.

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