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Homeland Security sets sights on national database of license plates

– The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to create a national license plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement license plate readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place.

The “national license plate recognition database service,” which would draw data from readers that scan the tag of every vehicle crossing their paths, would help catch fugitive undocumented immigrants, according to a DHS solicitation.

A spokeswoman for DHS’ Immigrations and Customs Enforcement emphasized that the database “could only be accessed in conjunction with ongoing criminal investigations or to locate wanted individuals.”

ICE last week issued a notice seeking bids from companies to compile the database from a variety of sources, including law enforcement agencies and car-repossession services.

Agents would be able to use a smartphone to snap photographs of license plates for comparison against a “hot list” of plates in a database.

They would have access 24/7, according to the solicitation, which was first noted last week by bloggers.

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