Surveillance Society

Yet another reason not to visit Oakland, CA 1:

In response to a public records request, we obtained the entire LPR dataset of the Oakland Police Department (OPD), including more than 4.6 million reads of over 1.1 million unique plates between December 23, 2010 and May 31, 2014. The dataset is likely the largest ever publicly released in the United States — perhaps in the world.

After analyzing this data with a custom-built visualization tool, Ars can definitively demonstrate the data’s revelatory potential. Anyone in possession of enough data can often — but not always — make educated guesses about a target’s home or workplace, particularly when someone’s movements are consistent (as with a regular commute).

For instance, during a meeting with an Oakland city council member, Ars was able to accurately guess the block where the council member lives after less than a minute of research using his license plate data. Similarly, while “working” at an Oakland bar mere blocks from Oakland police headquarters, we ran a plate from a car parked in the bar’s driveway through our tool. The plate had been read 48 times over two years in two small clusters: one near the bar and a much larger cluster 24 blocks north in a residential area — likely the driver’s home.

Meanwhile, across the bay in The City:

Muni has installed front-facing cameras on every Muni bus to ticket drivers who double-park in transit-only lanes. Muni is the first major American transit agency to have enforcement cameras on every bus.

Muni didn’t publicize the milestone, but we checked up on the effort with SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose, who said it was completed last fall (a few months off the target date of spring 2014). Equipping the whole fleet marks a major milestone in the effort to make Muni service more effective, and it nicely complements the city’s growing number of red-painted transit lanes.

So be warned, drivers: If a Muni bus weaves around your parked car in a transit lane, you will get a ticket in the mail. The base fine is $110.

Unfortunately, state law prohibits the cameras from being used to cite moving violations, so drivers cruising down a Muni lane can still only be penalized by the SFPD. 2

Surveillance Society

Show 2 footnotes

  1. As if one needed further reasons.
  2. This would be an excellent addition to Kansas City’s Toy Trains.

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