J.D. Tuccille, writing for Reason.com, says that Maryland is “rapidly becoming a true surveillance state.” Here’s the run-down on Maryland:
- Conversations that take place on buses are regularly recorded
- Much of Maryland law enforcement is networked into a state data “fusion” center
- In 2012 alone, scanners collected 85 million license plate records
Tuccille is writing mostly about license plate scanners and the problem that law enforcement doesn’t seem to believe that permission is required – like, say, probable cause or a search warrant – before using them to collect data on citizens’ whereabouts.
Here’s the problem. This anecdote might not have anything to do with Maryland, but Mayor R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis has had his own plates scanned. Even though those scans accounted for less than 1% of all scans in the area, the American Civil Liberties Union was able to piece together information on 41 places Mayor Rybak had been during the time period in which those scans were collected.
If the mayor of a large American city can be tracked this way, what does that mean for the rest of us? Does the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guards against unreasonable search and seizure, mean anything anymore? Or is this surveillance in fact reasonable?