ICE is tapping into a huge license-plate database, ACLU says, raising new privacy concerns about surveillance
In some cases, emails unearthed by the ACLU show ICE agents asking seemingly friendly local law-enforcement officials for access to license-plate data they may not have been able to see otherwise. Homeland Security itself had scrapped a plan in 2014 to develop a national license-plate tracking database in response to privacy concerns. Officers can search for a license plate to find everywhere that car was seen on camera, or get alerted whenever the license plate is spotted. The documents include emails in which ICE agents asked police officers to hand over driver information from the database to help investigate specific targets. ICE’s privacy rules say that license-plate data searches may be used for authorized criminal law-enforcement purposes, including removing “criminal aliens, fugitive aliens (and) illegal reentrants.”Critics say the system subjects innocent people to an improper level of government surveillance, because the scanners log license-plate data on every passing car, and not just those owned by criminal suspects.