The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is offering a contract to keep track of motorists’ license plates, media sources report.
The Washington Post and The Hill report that ICE posted a draft solicitation on Thursday, about a year after the department gave up on a previous attempt to create a license plate tracking system because of feared privacy issues.
The latest request says ICE “is neither seeking to build nor contribute to a national” license plate reading system. But according to The Hill, it wants to use a preexisting commercial service to help track down people suspected of violating the country’s immigration and other laws.
License plate reader systems use high-speed cameras to automatically take pictures of a vehicle’s tags as well as information about the vehicle and its location.
“ICE has identified a number of benefits from the use of [license place reader] data in its mission activities,” it said in an analysis of the privacy impacts of the service.
“When there is an investigative need, commercial [license plate reader] data provides a useful piece of information to help locate the subjects of enforcement actions and investigations,” it added. The technology is used by police and various government entities.
According to the media reports, ICE said it was aware of privacy concerns but would “build constraints” in to protect motorists’ privacy rights.
Last year, the DHS attempted to come up with its own system to track license plates, but gave up after criticism and concerns over how data would be used.
Earlier this year, leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee aired concerns about a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) program that tracks vehicles around the U.S.-Mexico border, which they said could be used to target people and seize their assets.
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