Tired of the National Security Agency (NSA) listening to and recording your phone calls? Tired of them monitoring your social media posts? Tired of the Department of Homeland Security paying local police to install surveillance cameras capable of making citizens into suspects? Sadly, there’s no time to rest, as several other federal agencies are jumping on the surveillance bandwagon.
Bloomberg reports that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Forest Service (among others) have awarded nearly half a million dollars to Vigilant Solutions, a California-based company that provides tools for tracking license plates and for accessing license plate databases.
Why would the IRS and the Forest Service need the technology to track the license plates of Americans? Bloomberg explains:
“The IRS uses a variety of investigative tools similar to other law-enforcement agencies to assist with criminal cases,” Eric Smith, an agency spokesman, said in an e-mail. He declined to say how the IRS used the records in its investigations.
The Forest Service, part of the Department of Agriculture, awarded Vigilant a contract valued at as much as $47,019 for its “CarDetector” system in August 2009, records show. The product scans and captures license plate numbers, compares the data to law enforcement lists of wanted vehicles and sends alerts when such vehicles are detected, according to the company’s website.
“License plate readers are helpful to our law enforcement officers with illegal activities on national forest system lands in California,” Tiffany Holloway, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in an e-mail. She declined to comment about what types of crimes the tools are used to investigate or provide examples of how the technology has helped law enforcement.
Of course, there is a quid pro quo in the IRS’s purchase of license plate tracking technology.
Owe money to the IRS? Having trouble making your mortgage payments? Ever been sued or been arrested?
Soon, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will know the answers to these questions before you pass through security, and they might affect whether you are cleared for travel.
In an article from October 2013, the New York Times reported, "The Transportation Security Administration is expanding its screening of passengers before they arrive at the airport by searching a wide array of government and private databases that can include records like car registrations and employment information."
The complete list of sources of personal data reviewed by the TSA also includes:
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