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Politech is the oldest Internet resource devoted to politics and technology. Launched in 1994 by Declan McCullagh, the mailing list has chronicled the growing intersection of law, culture, technology, and politics. Since 2000, so has the Politech web site.

License plate scanning: Balancing privacy with public safety, efficiency


Previous Politech message:
http://www.politechbot.com/2006/08/01/indianapolis-police-test/

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: indianapolis police test camera-scanner that reads license plates
Date: Wed, 9 Aug 2006 11:13:28 -0700 (PDT)
From: Andrew Blumberg <blumberg@math.Stanford.EDU>
To: declan@well.com
References: <Pine.LNX.4.64.0608021133170.5718@math.uchicago.edu>

hi declan,

	because of the necessity of having such devices for congestion
pricing, not to mention their use in automatic traffic enforcement (e.g.
catching stoplight violations), it seems likely that in a decade there
will be ubiquitous monitoring of license plates in most metropolitan
areas.  this is really bad, from the perspective of "driver privacy" ---
it means that it is easy for the state to track the motion of individual
drivers, which could be the basis for obvious and disturbing abuses.

	on the other hand, as you point out there are compelling reasons
to want such ubiquitous tracking --- congestion pricing is a good thing,
and there are public safety benefits.

	some collaborators and i wrote a few papers on how to balance
these concerns --- we designed a system which allows the state to catch
traffic violators, without sacrificing driver privacy.  similarly, one can
do congestion pricing in a similarly privacy-preserving way.  the solution
involves monitoring devices on every corner, reading from transponders
(like EZ-pass) in each car.  but by using crytographic protocols (relying
heavily on digital signatures and zero-knowledge interactions), the state
can catch "bad guys" without compelling law-abiding citizens to give up
their privacy.

	if you're interested, our papers on the subject are available at
http://math.stanford.edu/~blumberg/driving.pdf and
http://math.stanford.edu/~blumberg/congestion.pdf.

							regards, andrew

Posted by Declan McCullagh on Aug 17, 2006 in category privacy


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