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July 25, 2006 3:36 PM   Subscribe

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posted by panoptican (53 comments total)

 
The sure cure for driveaholism.
posted by blucevalo at 3:40 PM on July 25, 2006


As if owning a car wasn't a pain in the ass already. Thank goodness that I can handle all of my hedonistic needs within walking distance.
posted by rex dart, eskimo spy at 3:41 PM on July 25, 2006


That's an eponysterical post if I ever saw one.
posted by adamrice at 3:42 PM on July 25, 2006


So, its Big Brother and a loss of our privacy if people or police are reading what our license plates say---even though they are in plain sight?
posted by dios at 3:44 PM on July 25, 2006


Incidentally, would corrective lenses used by officers (thereby merely making it easier to read license plates within view) run afoul of the same privacy concerns?
posted by dios at 3:46 PM on July 25, 2006


Isn't it the computer/data component that tracks everywhere the plate goe and the supposed prominence of the cameras that has everyone spooked?

It's like a "follow that car" cabride that could follow everyone. If it is just the seeing of plates, I must have misunderstood the article.

It's like those grocery cards that track what you buy. Except it doesn't seem like you can opt out of the plate thing.
posted by rex dart, eskimo spy at 3:48 PM on July 25, 2006


I meant where the plate goes. My tin foil gloves ruin my spelling.
posted by rex dart, eskimo spy at 3:49 PM on July 25, 2006


Why does Wired consistently have some of the slowest-running servers in all of geekdom?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:52 PM on July 25, 2006


It's not the observation that's the concern, dios. I'm not concerned about a law enforcement officer looking at my license plate as I go by. It's the aggregation and analysis of my whereabouts over the course of some length of time that concerns me.

Typically, this kind of tailing requires direction or approval from a higher-up law enforcement official, generally having to justify the expense of the surveillance. When surveillance is cheap and easy, the aggregation is definitely a concern with regards to privacy.
posted by chimaera at 3:53 PM on July 25, 2006


Car 54: We know where you are.
posted by hal9k at 3:55 PM on July 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


Looks like I'll be walking to the motel tonight!
posted by c:\awesome at 4:00 PM on July 25, 2006


You know, it isn't the police using this that spooks me the most. It is businesses and other private individuals. I don't care if the police/Big Brother know where I go, etc.

It bothers me more that any interested party that had the money could find out that info. I'm an important person with lots of powerful enemies just waiting for me to slip up. They are like vultures.
posted by rex dart, eskimo spy at 4:01 PM on July 25, 2006


Funny, nobody has forced me to buy a license plate yet.
posted by furtive at 4:02 PM on July 25, 2006


I like my bike.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 4:02 PM on July 25, 2006


I don't own a car and I walk everywhere. And I SAW THIS COMING! Do not attempt to debate me!
posted by slatternus at 4:05 PM on July 25, 2006


Dios, it isn't so much about seeing as it is about tracking. But if you don't think that anyone with enough cash being able to track your movements via traffic cam and EZPass is an invasion of your privacy, there probably isn't much I or anyone else can do to reality.

If it was a choice to own a license plate whether or not you required a car to get around, I might have more sympathy for that argument.
posted by rollbiz at 4:15 PM on July 25, 2006


Eventually we'll all get used to no privacy.

Hell, we all already know what Paris Hilton's genitals look like, and how she looks when she's having sex, and where she is all the time, and what she drives and what her little dog eats.

Just think of it that way. We can all be our very own Paris Hilton.

Think of that, and lay back, and relax...
posted by blacklite at 4:17 PM on July 25, 2006


50 Easy Ways to Help the New World Order

This helps out #15 pretty well!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:18 PM on July 25, 2006


It will be scary when these things are installed on all stop lights.

What if you got one of those neon plate holders. Except instead of neon, make it IR? And flashing. That MIGHT foil those cameras from a distance. Maybe.
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 4:23 PM on July 25, 2006


I love the doublethink of a company named "ChoicePoint" that would never give me the Choice to opt out of it's database...

Secondarily, and this is a point made in the short story Minority Report more than the film of the same name: wait until every billboard has one of these things attached to it, so that 1/4 mile down the road, it knows you're coming, polls it's database and finds the products best targetted to you based on where you've been (let's see, he stopped at the grocery store, the beer store, and the butcher's: he's probably having a barbecue, so let's flash him an ad for...briquets? lighter fluid? grill cleaner? whatever...) and changes it's display to something related from a sponsor who's paid for targeted ads. It's Google Adsense on the Freeway!

""I know it sounds really Big Brother," Bucholz says. "But it's going to happen. It's going to get cheaper and cheaper until they slap them up on every taxicab and delivery truck and track where people live." And work. And sleep. And move." ... And he's conveniently rationalized this privacy invasion for his own personal gain. "Well, if you're going to get raped, you might as well not fight it and try to enjoy it."

I hate humans sometimes.

[and dios, you can be SO intensely obtuse...]
posted by I, Credulous at 4:25 PM on July 25, 2006


imagine how angry everyone will be when they know where you've been all day.

I'd prefer the folks we trust with our security work on better ways to prevent crime rather than better ways to catch criminals.
posted by carsonb at 4:39 PM on July 25, 2006


So, its Big Brother and a loss of our privacy if people or police are reading what our license plates say---even though they are in plain sight?

Ah, but if a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear, does it make a sound?

Thing is now there's always somebody there. It's a question of information usage yes, but also sheer intensity. At what point does law enforcement become oppressive? Probably when it's always there.
posted by scheptech at 4:40 PM on July 25, 2006


Well said chimaera.
I would say the definition of “Big Brother” is not limited to the government. In a way it’s unfortunate that Orwell gets all the attention when it comes to dystopia and Huxley’s work gets second fiddle. Brave New World is no less insidious and stifling, and by Ford there is no reason to think corporate affect on culture and privacy is going to be any more forgiving than the boot being stamped on a human face forever. It’d just have a nifty logo.
Although I’d suspect they’d experiance some scrutiny after the first person who uses their service to serve up an ice cold dish of road revenge.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:42 PM on July 25, 2006


Dear, I was parked in front of the Bada Bing to do research. I didn't even go in. Honestly.
posted by ericb at 4:42 PM on July 25, 2006


So, its Big Brother and a loss of our privacy if people or police are reading what our license plates say---even though they are in plain sight?

And, it'd be sort of Big Brother-ish and somehow detrimental to privacy if people or machines are scanning our retinas from a distance with tiny high-tech lasers and computers -- even though so many people walk around with their eyes uncovered? Is there a law against that? Maybe face recognition software will get to be good enough that they can track everyone with just ordinary cameras. I guess that'd be better than having everyone wear a license plate on their forehead.
posted by sfenders at 4:43 PM on July 25, 2006



posted by ericb at 4:48 PM on July 25, 2006


Incidentally, would corrective lenses used by officers (thereby merely making it easier to read license plates within view) run afoul of the same privacy concerns?

Well, of course. That's why you need 20/20 or comparable vision to join the PD here.
posted by IronLizard at 4:54 PM on July 25, 2006


Smedleyman nails it. It's a brave new world of smiley-face social control.

Privacy Revolution Now!

First up against the wall: all those who whine "privacy is dead, get over it."
posted by oncogenesis at 5:15 PM on July 25, 2006


Dios wrote: Incidentally, would corrective lenses used by officers (thereby merely making it easier to read license plates within view) run afoul of the same privacy concerns?

If those corrective lenses made it possible to read 60 license plates per second, day or night, while traveling at 65 mph, and recorded time and location data for each plate, and that data was later aggregated and stored, and if those corrective lenses were made available to, say, data brokers with a poor record of securing data against theft (and whose stock in trade was, you know, selling personally identifiable information)?... Yeah. I guess that might run afoul of those very same privacy concerns.

(Incidentally, is something really in plain sight if you can only see and understand it while casting Slow Time, looking through your Gem of Eagle Vision and wearing your +5 Helm of Number Holding?)
posted by thinman at 5:16 PM on July 25, 2006


I don't understand how the private sector could make use of this technology. Sure, the scanners themselves may be readily available, but the scanners are useless without the database that correlates the license plate numbers with names. Aren't databases like this still inaccessible to the general public? I thought only law enforcement had access to them.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:29 PM on July 25, 2006


Judge dismisses phone records lawsuit
posted by homunculus at 5:31 PM on July 25, 2006


From The Independent, 12/22/2005, Britain Will Be First Country to Monitor Every Car Journey:
Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.
...
The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are being converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports and petrol-station forecourts.

By next March a central database installed alongside the Police National Computer in Hendon, north London, will store the details of 35 million number-plate "reads" per day. These will include time, date and precise location, with camera sites monitored by global positioning satellites.

Already there are plans to extend the database by increasing the storage period to five years and by linking thousands of additional cameras so that details of up to 100 million number plates can be fed each day into the central databank.
...
Chief constables are also on the verge of brokering agreements with the Highways Agency, supermarkets and petrol station owners to incorporate their own CCTV cameras into the network. In addition to cross-checking each number plate against stolen and suspect vehicles held on the Police National Computer, the national data centre will also check whether each vehicle is lawfully licensed, insured and has a valid MoT test certificate.

"Every time you make a car journey already, you'll be on CCTV somewhere. The difference is that, in future, the car's index plates will be read as well," said Frank Whiteley, Chief Constable of Hertfordshire and chairman of the ACPO [Association of Chief Police Officers] steering committee on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR).

"What the data centre should be able to tell you is where a vehicle was in the past and where it is now, whether it was or wasn't at a particular location, and the routes taken to and from those crime scenes. Particularly important are associated vehicles," Mr Whiteley said.

The term "associated vehicles" means analysing convoys of cars, vans or trucks to see who is driving alongside a vehicle that is already known to be of interest to the police. Criminals, for instance, will drive somewhere in a lawful vehicle, steal a car and then drive back in convoy to commit further crimes "You're not necessarily interested in the stolen vehicle. You're interested in what's moving with the stolen vehicle," Mr Whiteley explained.
A copy of the report ANPR Strategy for the Police Service 2005/2006 - "Denying Criminals the Use of the Road" [Word doc] can be downloaded from the Association of Chief Police Officers. Here's more about Automatic Number Plate Recognition.

Once you've established a regular pattern of daily travel, automobile surveillance may not only consist of where you are, but where you're not. Taking any out-of-the-ordinary side trips, are we?
posted by cenoxo at 5:44 PM on July 25, 2006


So, its Big Brother and a loss of our privacy if people or police are reading what our license plates say---even though they are in plain sight?
posted by dios at 6:44 PM EST on July 25 [+fave] [!]


It's not the reading, it's the monitoring. The cops/DHS won't care what you're morning routine is. What they will care about is when you deviate from it. That's what makes you stand out and what makes them keep an eye on you. And that that's the loss of privacy, the increased attention from law enforcement when you deviate from your own patterns.

"That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it..." This pervasive invasiveness prevents us from exercising this right.
posted by Pastabagel at 5:45 PM on July 25, 2006


So, its Big Brother and a loss of our privacy if people or police are reading what our license plates say---even though they are in plain sight?
posted by dios at 3:44 PM PST on July 25


I know you're ever so excited to be back but at least try to read the article, will you?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:55 PM on July 25, 2006


Afroblanco: I thought only law enforcement had access to them.

That'll make Rebecca Schaeffer feel better.
posted by swell at 6:25 PM on July 25, 2006


Wouldn't this sort of service be just perfect for a stalker?
posted by clevershark at 6:30 PM on July 25, 2006


dios writes "So, its Big Brother and a loss of our privacy if people or police are reading what our license plates say---even though they are in plain sight?"


What? You're not banned anymore?
posted by stet at 7:11 PM on July 25, 2006


stet writes "What? You're not banned anymore?"

He snuck in using Jessamyn's license plate.
posted by orthogonality at 8:03 PM on July 25, 2006


In the States, can you just jot down a DL number and call DMV with it to get a driver's name and address, or is that exclusive to the law-enforcement folks?
posted by pax digita at 8:13 PM on July 25, 2006


As a reporter for a small town newspaper many years ago, I was often the (sometimes unwilling) sounding-board for everyone's local conspiracy theories. One intrigued me, and because I had nothing better to do, I pursued the story. Here's what happened.

I was told that the pastor (minister? whatever you call 'em) of a local Primitive Baptist Church was known to go to the ONE restaurant in town that had a license to sell booze after noon on Sunday and, it being a small town, note which of his parishoners were frequenting that establishment by counting cars. He would then read off the List of Shame in adult Bible study class the following week. To his credit, he didn't do it at the pulpit on Sunday, but in such a way that the gossip-hungry would have a reason to sign up for adult Bible study.

I wondered why he didn't just go in the restaurant, order a glass of tea, and stand by the bar looking stern all afternoon. That, presumably, would have been more effective at keeping Demon Rum from his flock's thirsty lips. (Until they went down the road to the Stop'n'Rob, a gas station across the county line that sold cold beer and excellent, maybe even prize-winning, fried chicken.)

So I checked it out. Sure enough, after church on Sunday, as the crowds began to flock into the restaurant (and they weren't there to do body shots and snort Jager -- this was the best place in town to take the fam for Sunday dinner), a black Crown Vic trundled to a stop across the street and the window rolled down. Hello, Pastor Jones! I walked over to his car in time to see him hiding a notebook beneath a sweater on his front seat.

"Hi, Mr. Jones," I said. I always use "Mister" with the ordained. It really pisses them off. "What was the sermon about today?"

"If you'd been there, you'd have heard it," he replied.

"What's the notebook for? Keeping track of folks?" I asked.

He bowed up. (This is a Southern US expression for a display of belligerence. Think of a tomcat, and how he'll bow his back and fluff his fur and stiffen his tail to look big and threatening.) He claimed he was "just making notes".

Story confirmed, as far as I was concerned.

It's interesting that privacy seems to exist in the interstices of technology. It in fact depends on an absence of technology. There's a confluence of interests at work here. The press, the cops, and the corporations all want to know as much about everyone as they possibly can. How much convenience are we willing to sacrifice?

I don't have a bank account, a credit card, or a driver's license. I DO have a state ID and a Blockbuster card. So I'm willing to have my game and movie purchases tracked, but not my finances. I realize everything posted on the 'Net is frozen in amber for all to see for eternity (well, at least that it is prudent to act that way) and that every Google search is being logged by some allegedly benevolent entity. So to move from virtual travel to actual travel isn't that far of a step.

The irony of it is that it will be the GOP that sez self-righteous stuff like, well, the roads were built with taxpayer dollars so that's public and anything happening in public is fair game, no matter how acute our electro-tweezers are.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:36 PM on July 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


What? You're not banned anymore?
posted by stet at 9:11 PM CST on July 25


I was never banned.

Matt gave me a timeout for a week back in June. I've had privileges all of July, but I was extremely busy through work.
_____

As to the substance, I wonder if I am the only person who read the article.

People are acting as if this is some sort of device that tracks people's car wherever it goes like an RFID chip or something.

That isn't what this is.

This is a system where cops "see" cars and check their license plates to make sure they aren't stolen. The car has to be "seen" by a police car. If there is no police car with this device near you, you aren't being checked. Many of the responses in this thread seem to suggest this is like some GPS system that allows us to know where any car is at any time. It is clear from the article that this is not like that at all.

Again, the objection seems to be efficiency of the system. Anything this system can do, an individual cop can do: a cop can read your license plate in plain sight, a cop can run the tags to make sure the car isn't stolen, the cop can follow you, the cop can remember that he saw your car at this intersection yesterday, etc. If a cop can do it, then it was never a privacy interest you had to begin with. The objection is that it is an efficient system with better ability to read your plates and remember locations. The suggestions that this information is harvested for some other purpose is speculative only in the article.
posted by dios at 7:15 AM on July 26, 2006


Some people were born to be slaves.

Any technology with potential for abuse will be abused. This is like the the minimization of free energy: there are degrees of freedom now available to any crooked cops out there that were not there before. All other things being equal, this leverage will be employed.

Note also that reciprocally keeping tabs on gov employees is not nearly as acceptable to the state.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:29 AM on July 26, 2006


Wired News, 8/9/2005, Brit License Plates Get Chipped:
The British government is preparing to test new high-tech license plates containing microchips capable of transmitting unique vehicle identification numbers and other data to readers more than 300 feet away.

Officials in the United States say they'll be closely watching the British trial as they contemplate initiating their own tests of the plates, which incorporate radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags to make vehicles electronically trackable.

"We definitely have an interest in testing an RFID-tagged license plate," said Jerry Dike, chairman of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and director of the Vehicle Titles and Registration Division of the Texas Department of Transportation.
...
Active RFID is already enjoying limited use on U.S. roadways. Under a new program, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is issuing RFID tags to foreign freight and passenger vehicles as they enter the country.
More about the DHS' US- VISIT RFID program here and here.
posted by cenoxo at 7:38 AM on July 26, 2006


The car has to be "seen" by a police car. If there is no police car with this device near you, you aren't being checked.

Actually, the very guy who's selling the stuff wants it to be put on cabs, delivery trucks, and other vehicles that are constantly on the road. That way, the cab/delivery company can make a tidy sum selling the locations of car sightings to Choicepoint, Acxiom, and other private information aggregators.

Although not mentioned in the article, it would also be quite easy for the police to station cameras all over a city. Just slap 'em on stop lights.

Anyway, whether the camera is on a police car or not, the police will buy the information from the aggregators and use/abuse it to fit their purposes. They won't be the only ones, of course. The suggestion upthread about targeted highway advertising is particularly horrifying. Exceedingly reminiscent of Minority Report.
posted by jedicus at 8:01 AM on July 26, 2006


Reductio ad absurdem arguments carry a lot of weight in (certain subcircles of) the legal profession and in any other area of human activity largely concerned with reasoning about and manipulation of abstract formal systems. In the real world, however, a significant change in any particular variable is often a change also in quality or kind, and should be treated as something new -- and, as something new, it would be unwise to blithely apply old norms without even a modicum of consideration.
posted by little miss manners at 8:18 AM on July 26, 2006


Well said, Smed. Though, it's just an illusion that corporations and the US govt are separate oppressors.
posted by squirrel at 8:33 AM on July 26, 2006


As to the substance, I wonder if I am the only person who read the article.

People are acting as if this is some sort of device that tracks people's car wherever it goes like an RFID chip or something.

That isn't what this is.

This is a system where cops "see" cars and check their license plates to make sure they aren't stolen. The car has to be "seen" by a police car. If there is no police car with this device near you, you aren't being checked. Many of the responses in this thread seem to suggest this is like some GPS system that allows us to know where any car is at any time. It is clear from the article that this is not like that at all.
posted by dios at 7:15 AM PST on July 26


So in other words, you didn't read the article.

"In recent years, police around the country have started to use powerful infrared cameras to read plates and catch carjackers and ticket scofflaws. But the technology will soon migrate into the private sector, and morph into a tool for tracking individual motorists' movements, says former policeman Andy Bucholz, who's on the board of Virginia-based G2 Tactics, a manufacturer of the technology."

"I know it sounds really Big Brother," Bucholz says. "But it's going to happen. It's going to get cheaper and cheaper until they slap them up on every taxicab and delivery truck and track where people live." And work. And sleep. And move.

Privacy advocates worry that Bucholz, who wants to sell LPR data to consumer data brokers like ChoicePoint, knows what he's talking about."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:04 AM on July 26, 2006


Wow. Got to love the reading comprehension levels.

The technology doesn't do what some of you are claiming it does. The article is clear about that. But instead you are arguing about what it *may do* at some undefined point in the future and rely only the word of a person trying to the private uses of the fucking technology. Yeah. I'm suprised he didn't say it would cure cancer too. But the statement from him that "soon this will be commerically available to cure cancer" would be read as a clear indication from some posters that this WILL do that.

As it stands, to anyone with an elementary-level of reading comprehension, this technology only does what I have described above and all the other speculation is informed only by a salesman and reflexive hand-wringing.

Reductio ad absurdem arguments carry a lot of weight in (certain subcircles of) the legal profession and in any other area of human activity largely concerned with reasoning about and manipulation of abstract formal systems. In the real world, however, a significant change in any particular variable is often a change also in quality or kind, and should be treated as something new -- and, as something new, it would be unwise to blithely apply old norms without even a modicum of consideration.
posted by little miss manners at 10:18 AM CST on July 26


I assume this is directed towards to me, and I find it absolutely laughable. "Reducto ad absurdum"? That's what you are saying my analysis above was? Funny. But what we call it is "looking at the known facts and operating only from them." Find the base principles and apply them to the basic issues. But you call that a logical fallacy. Wonderful.
posted by dios at 10:50 AM on July 26, 2006


that should say:

... rely on the word of a person trying to SELL the private uses of the fucking technology.


Snake oil salesmen tend to not be reliable sources.
posted by dios at 10:51 AM on July 26, 2006


Given a choice between believing a policeman who (presumably) has used the devices and who works for a company that makes and sells them and you, dios, a lawyer who has not used the devices and does not work for a company that makes and sells them, I will believe the cop / businessman.

Furthermore, if you want to argue facts, let's look at some facts. Wiretaps: used to be very uncommon when they involved actually tapping of wires; now they're everywhere and are done without warrants or with secret warrants. Police databases: used to be small, paper based, and only included people who had been arrested; now they're electronic, massive, and involve everyone with a social security number or credit card. Police / corporate cooperation: used to be fairly minimal; now it's pervasive, with corporations which exist solely to allow the police and government to evade privacy protection laws and the FOIA.

So, how again is it speculation and hand-wringing to suspect/believe/be concerned that this technology will soon be used/abused on the scale indicated by the guy in the article?
posted by jedicus at 11:13 AM on July 26, 2006


My comment was inspired by you but not really aimed at you. It struck me as typical of many experiences with members of the legal profession, whose understandings of the limits of their domain expertise seems to erode a bit with time. To elaborate:

You seem argue with an apparent belief that a universally appropriate response to an objection to a new development is to find the apparent base principle from which the objection originates and see if that principle, applied more broadly, still seems reasonable. In this case you argued thusly:
Again, the objection seems to be efficiency of the system. Anything this system can do, an individual cop can do: a cop can read your license plate in plain sight, a cop can run the tags to make sure the car isn't stolen, the cop can follow you, the cop can remember that he saw your car at this intersection yesterday, etc. If a cop can do it, then it was never a privacy interest you had to begin with. The objection is that it is an efficient system with better ability to read your plates and remember locations. The suggestions that this information is harvested for some other purpose is speculative only in the article.
Or, with the unstated assumption drawn out: The reductio ad absurdem in this case is exhibited in your argument contra your opponents as an example of why theiir reasoning is inconsistent; I have two objections, one fundamental and one more specific.

In both of our lines of work intellectual consistency within our domains of expertise is highly valued, but it is a fundamental mistake to assume that in the real world consistency necessarily has any broadly-applicable value.

The more specific argument is that your calling-out your opponents' apparent incosistency rests on the assumption that, in fact, there is a quantitative but not qualitative difference between the new way of checking license plates and the old. This may be true but simply stating it does not make it so, and it's not hard to find counterexamples in the natural and human world where increases in quantity are better described as changes in quality:

a tree is not a forest of one, and either is two trees or three trees, but sooner or later a clump of trees is better described as a forest or a tree;
an article is not an encylopedia of one topic, nor is even a smallish collection of them bound together an encyclopedia of a few topics, but past a certain threshold of comprehensiveness it is best to think of a collection of articles

So even for your argument that their objection is only to the efficiency of the new system to hold rigorously you would need to establish that the difference in efficiency is within such range as not to trigger a category change; you are certainly free to continue arguing away without justifying that assumption but it does make your case much weaker in most non-courtroom settings.

To address the 'stick to the facts' argument: if a skilled practitioner in the field of information technology -- which, with all due respect, your past posting history clearly indicate you not to be -- can easily foresee what a few simple iterations and refinements of this technology can bring, and if those foreseen refinements have the potential to bring about unwanted consequences, it would seem prudent to take proactive steps to prevent those unwanted consequences, even if at the moment the bare facts of the situation do not necessarily warrant it.

Indeed, it is the norm in many countries considering new legislation dealing with new technical developments to consider the opinions of subject matter experts as to not only the actions warranted by the current state of the art but also what to expect with further development, and what additional actions, if any, to take.

So sticking to the barest facts of the matter when interpreting already-written laws is the norm when interpreting law, but is not really the norm when pondering whether new law is needed, and so the merits in this scenario of simply 'sticking to the facts' are a bit unclear also.

I suspect we would have few disagreements had you prefaced your comments with a disclaimer to the effect of 'as regards current law the following obtain', which by making explicit the framework in which your arguments can safely assume validity. As is your arguments tend to attract excessive attention because you argue using tactics and unstated assumptions of authority that do not necessarily apply outside the legal profession.
posted by little miss manners at 12:13 PM on July 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Or, more succinctly:

You seen to argue firstly that the objection the people upset by the new plate-scanning technology have is only that it is more efficient in performing tasks they now do not object to, and that consequently they must either abandon their objection (to avoid being inconsistent) or find a different reason to object (again to avoid inconsistency). As a secondary argument you point out that as currently described the technology is as if yet not quite as advanced as some of the people in this thread have made it out to be.

Both of these arguments would hold water in a court of law or other venue operating under similar rules and assumptions: by painting your opposition as intellectually inconsistent you have supplied rhetoric that would make it difficult for a judge to issue a ruling agreeing with their position -- judges place a high value on the appearance of consistency -- and your restriction to the barest facts at hand is also a common restriction in the courts, which for their part prefer to provide narrow rulings on very specific cases and thus pay little heed to all but the most blatantly unavoidable speculations.

Neither argument on its own holds much water outside of such a venue: it is not clear why in this instance we should prefer intellectual consistency over our moral intuitions, regardless of their difficulty to articulate, and especially since we are concerned as much with the future as with the state of affairs at this exact moment; it is also not clear in this instance why we should not consider more than the most basic facts of the case when the implications some obvious further developments are so severe. Moreover, your claim that this technology represent only a more efficient manner of performing an already-accepted action relies on the assumption that the increase in efficiency is insufficient to constitute a change in kind, and this is not at all obvious without further justification: just because I can draw a line between two points does not mean they lie within the same mental categories.

Thus outside of a courtroom the argument you have made is internally consistent but only forceful within the same systems of reasoning as are common in your profession.

And although I did not think it worth bringing this up the first go through I think this, also, merits discussion: I recently had the opportunity to demo a product that assists in positively identifying that a particular person is a particular person, ie if I knew your name, date of birth, and social security number this product would provide me with enough personal information to formulate questions that would distinguish you from all but the most-researched impersonators. For example, I might be able to ask for the make, model, and color of your parents' second car for the years 72-75 and thus confirm that you were who you claimed to be.

The product uses information extracted from several thousand different databases and repositories of public records, some of which are not otherwise available online, and only requires on my part enough information about a particualr person to narrow them down to a single individual; oftentimes names and one other piece of information is all that is provided.

This is also only an increase in efficiency, to use your term, of what previously any private detective could do, albeit much more slowly than this product allows. It is also for the moment in the private sector and thus not even subject to the same kind of legal concerns as the police car device mentioned upthread.

All that being said, it was customer feedback that led to this product's not being adopted. Although they had been concerned about identity theft and had already provided information that would have allowed a private detective to track down the exact same information they did not see this as being the same thing, only more efficient: they found the change in time and effort required on our end too extreme to feel comfortable with, and thus -- because in the private sector the customer is always correct -- the product was not enrolled, even though it was just a more efficient version of our existing secondary and tertiary identity verification schemes.

Of course one could have pointed out to the customer that their objections were unprincipled and that, consequently, their objections were unfounded and thus ignorable, but that would have been bad for business -- again, the customer is always right. In the case of a representative democracy, should a sufficiently large proportion of the citizenry find that this new plate-scanning system is unwanted then that is their right, and a legislature that fails to make law to reflect those views could not in good conscience claim to represent the citizenry it serves, even if the citizenry has no principled objection to the new technology.

Thus the argumentation you have supplied is perfectly fine if your goal is to interpret existing law but entirely irrelevant in any wider venue not operating under the same conditions; if you had prefaced your comments with a notice that 'as the law now stands the following would hold' I would have little complaint with your analysis.
posted by little miss manners at 3:16 PM on July 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Oakland Police spies chosen to lead war protest
posted by homunculus at 10:35 PM on July 27, 2006


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