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California Senate Takes Up Digital License Plates That Can Track Movements, Collect Fees

July 18, 2013 by  

The California State Senate is considering a statewide conversion to non-renewable digital license plates that would be able to collect electronic information, such as determining whether a motorist has pre-paid a road toll, in a bid to do away with what sponsors feel is the costly, inconvenient process of producing, distributing and renewing traditional license plates.

According to CBS San Francisco, Senate Bill 806 would establish a pilot program outfitting 160,000 vehicles with the new plates, which would essentially be computer screens with wireless capability.

A San Francisco-based startup company with lobbyists in Sacramento would supply (read: sell) the digital plates.

Advocates say the switch to digital would be convenient (no annual waiting at the DMV), cheap ($20 million a year less than traditional plates) and virtuous (the plates could issue Amber Alerts.)

Critics, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), say the plates could easily become a tool for warrantless, secret tracking of motorists’ movements.

“Law enforcement needs a warrant to be able to put a tracking device on your car,” said an EFF attorney. “It’s a possibility the way this program could be implemented, these smart plates could be that tracking device.”

California Senate Democrat Ben Hueso is sponsoring the bill.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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