(tech dirt) It’s one thing for governments to make use of license plate scanning equipment to catalog what cars are crossing their borders. But it takes it to a whole different level to then share that data with insurance firms. However, it appears that’s exactly what the US government is doing. A Freedom of Information Act request by privacy group EPIC, discovered that US Customs (part of Homeland Security) is sharing license plate scans with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), which is actually an organization made up of just about every insurance company.
The reasons for such sharing of info may appear to be noble. It’s technically to try to spot stolen vehicles.
The purpose of furnishing LPR information is to verify that vehicles departing from and arriving into the United States are not stolen vehicles. NICB has access to unique information regarding stolen vehicles, as well as the means of exchanging information regarding stolen vehicles with member insurance company Special Investigative Units and Federal and State law enforcement authorities.
The memorandum of understanding insists that the data can only be used for these purposes, but it’s unclear if there’s any real way to police that, and it certainly means that the uses by NICB are not subject to a FOIA request, since they’re not a part of the government. The only “remedy” presented for a firm that uses the information otherwise is to be stricken from the “shared” list. There are also some concerns that even the sharing of the info may be in violation of existing laws.