Vehicle location data

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Vehicle location data is the big data collection of vehicle locations, including automatic vehicle location data. This usually includes times and often photographs as well.[1] [2] Common methods of data collection include automatic number plate recognition of vehicle registration plates from images collected by cameras mounted on vehicles or fixtures along roads, [1] [2] [3] [4] as well as radio-frequency identification (RFID) from dedicated short-range communications transponders[5] [6] (such as those used for electronic toll collection and parking lots). Databases of this information may be maintained by government or private entities. Private companies use vehicle location data for vehicle repossession and consumer profiling.[1] Government databases have been subjected to legal orders for location data.[6][7] Access may be restricted to use in criminal cases, but may also be available for civil cases, such as divorce.[7]

Automatic number plate recognition[edit]

Vehicle registration plates may be automatically scanned with equipment, mountable on vehicles, that identifies an image characteristic of a registration plates, takes a photograph, and reads and records the registration number.[1] Such scanning may be done by government [1][2] or private industry.[1][3][4] Private industry collects this information for profit through, directly or indirectly, activities such as consumer profiling and repossession.[1][4] Companies have collected over 1 billion scans of registration plates in the United States,[4] stored in multiple national databases.


Radio-frequency identification (RFID) read from dedicated short-range communication transponders voluntarily obtained by citizens for electronic toll collection enable recording of time and location data at toll crossings.[7] Scanning equipment has also been installed at additional, non-toll locations,[8][5] enabling further data collection. Transponders have also been hacked, allowing reading and tracking by unauthorized parties.[9] [10] [11]

Privacy concerns[edit]

The American Civil Liberties Union issued a report on license plate tracking, finding that the vast majority of scans collected are the vehicles of innocent persons.[12] [3] [13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Julia Angwin; Valentino-DeVries, Jennifer (29 September 2012). "New Tracking Frontier: Your License Plates". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Winston, Ali (26 June 2013). "License-plate readers let police collect millions of records on drivers". Center for Investigative Reporting. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Pilkington, Ed (17 July 2013). "Millions of US license plates tracked and stored, new ACLU report finds". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d Aegerter, Gil (19 July 2013). "License plate data not just for cops: Private companies are tracking your car". NBC News. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  5. ^ a b Lutz, Jaime (8 May 2013). "Big Brother has it 'E-Z': City now tracking cars through local streets thanks to E-ZPass". The Brooklyn Paper. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  6. ^ a b Tynan, Dan. "Location-Tracking Services: Why You Should Think Twice". PC World. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  7. ^ a b c Newmarker, Chris (10 August 2007). "Adultery has a new monitor: E-ZPass". USA Today. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  8. ^ Hill, Kashmir (12 September 2013). "E-ZPasses Get Read All Over New York (Not Just At Toll Booths)". Forbes. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  9. ^ Mills, Elinor (6 August 2008). "Security expert explains how data can be stolen off electronic toll devices and how people can be tracked in real time". C-Net. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  10. ^ "Toll road transponder security hacked". Traffic Technology Today. 13 August 2008. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  11. ^ Lawson, Nate (7 August 2008). "FasTrak talk summary and slides". Root Labs. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  12. ^ "You Are Being Tracked: How License Plate Readers Are Being Used to Record Americans' Movements". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  13. ^ Sullivan, Bob (17 July 2013). "ACLU: Digital dragnet ensnares millions of innocent drivers". NBC News. Retrieved 19 July 2013.