Devices being used as surveillance tools, activist says
By CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS, Vancouver Sun
Photograph by: ian lindsay , Vancouver Sun
Provincial RCMP and Vancouver police are using the same automated licence plate scanners that landed the Victoria police department at the centre of a B.C. privacy commissioner investigation Monday.
Privacy advocates say the scanning devices are being used as covert surveillance tools to track citizens and capture unnecessary personal information about their whereabouts without consent.
“Tracking the movements of innocent drivers represents a serious threat to Canadian privacy rights — rights which are essential to our freedom of expression and association,” digital rights activist Kevin McArthur said Monday.
McArthur is one of three independent researchers behind a report that prompted the privacy commissioner’s investigation.
Along with journalist Rob Wipond and University of Victoria graduate student Christopher Parsons, McArthur found much of the scanner data in Victoria was being saved and stored for undisclosed purposes.
“Authorities have frequently represented the [Automated Licence Plate Recognition] program to the public as having been ‘reviewed and approved’ by Canada’s privacy commissioners, but that’s not true,” Wipond said.
But Supt. Denis Boucher, head of RCMP Traffic Services in B.C., said no new information files are created in the scanning process.
“It’s not used to gather intelligence, it’s used for enforcement action based on a valid criteria.”
If a plate number is linked to any documented illegal activities, a “hit” is created, which the officer runs on an in-car computer to verify the information.
creynolds AT vancouversun.com