Here’s another facinating article on possible (and likely) future uses for license plate scanners, this time by retail outlets. This kind of tracking, as people enter retail parking lots will almost surely happen as the technology becomes cheap enough and the information valuable enough.
One of the obvious questions this raises for anyone concerned with civil rights and privacy is: who owns, shares, and protects this data? Will the local mall be sharing this data directly with law enforcement agencies? Will they share it automatically, so that the police can match license plates with anyone with an outstanding warrant or suspended license? Could you be tracked and arrested for a charge you didn’t even know you had committed (maybe you we’re even notified by the DMV), just because you visited the mall??
When is becomes trivially simple for private companies to be de facto agents of the government by sharing surveillance data, the world can be a scary place.
A lot of the constitutional protections and assumptions of privacy are actively being challenged by all this technology, and much of the law simply has not caught up. What data can be shared, and under what circumstances (is there a warrant signed by a judge?) is a critical question, and something we should all be paying attention to as this tracking becomes ever-present in our lives.