Tracking NSA/CIA/FBI Agents Just Got Easier

I pointed out in The DEA is Stalking You! the widespread use of automobile license reading applications by the DEA. I also suggested that citizens start using their cellphones to take photos of people coming and going from DEA, CIA, FBI offices and posting them online.

The good news is that Big Data has come to the aid of citizens to track NSA/CIA/FBI, etc. agents.

Lisa Vaas writes in Entire Oakland Police license plate reader data set handed to journalist:

Howard Matis, a physicist who works at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, didn’t know that his local police department had license plate readers (LPRs).

But even if they did have LPRs (they do: they have 33 automated units), he wasn’t particularly worried about police capturing his movements.

Until, that is, he gave permission for Ars Technica’s Cyrus Farivar to get data about his own car and its movements around town.

The data is, after all, accessible via public records law.

Ars 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 captured in just over 3 years.

Then, to make sense out of data originally provided in 18 Excel spreadsheets, each containing hundreds of thousands of lines, Ars hired a data visualization specialist who created a simple tool that allowed the publication to search any given plate and plot its locations on a map.

How cool is that!?

Of course, your mileage may vary as the original Ars article reports:

In August 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation lost a lawsuit to compel the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to hand over a mere week’s worth of all LPR data. That case is now on appeal.

The trick being that the state doesn’t mind invading your privacy but is very concerned with you not invading its privacy or knowing enough about its activities to be an informed member of the voting electorate.

If you believe that the government wants to keep information like license reading secret to protect the privacy of other citizens, you need to move to North Korea. I understand they have a very egalitarian society.

Of course these are license reading records collected by the state. Since automobiles are in public view, anyone could start collecting license plate numbers with locations. Now there’s a startup idea. Blanket the more important parts of D.C. inside the Beltway with private license readers. That would be a big data set with commercial value.

To give you an idea of the possibilities, visit Police License Plate Readers at You will find links to a wide variety of license plate reading solutions, including:


A fixed installation device from Vigilant Solutions.

You could wire something together but if you are serious about keeping track of the government keeping track on all of us, you should go with professional grade equipment. As well as adopt an activist response to government surveillance. Being concerned, frightened, “speaking truth to power,” etc. are as effective as doing nothing at all.

Think about a citizen group based license plate data collection. Possible discoveries could include government vehicles at local motels and massage parlors, explaining the donut gaze in some police officer eyes, meetings between regulators and the regulated, a whole range of governmental wrong doing is waiting to be discovered. Think about investing in a mobile license plate reader for your car today!

If you don’t like government surveillance, invite them into the fish bowl.

They have a lot more to hide that you do.

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