A vast hidden surveillance network runs across America, powered by the repo industry

Few notice the "spotter car" from Manny Sousa's repo company as it scours Massachusetts parking lots, looking for vehicles whose owners have defaulted on their loans. Sousa's unmarked car is part of a technological revolution that goes well beyond the repossession business, transforming any ­industry that wants to check on the whereabouts of ordinary people.
An automated reader attached to the spotter car takes a picture of every ­license plate it passes and sends it to a company in Texas that already has more than 1.8 billion plate scans from vehicles across the country.
But the most significant impact of Sousa's business is far bigger than locating cars whose owners have defaulted on loans: It is the growing database of snapshots showing where Americans were at specific times, information that everyone from private detectives to ­insurers are willing to pay for.
While public debate about the license reading technology has centered on how police should use it, business has eagerly adopted the $10,000 to $17,000 scanners with remarkably few limits.
...Digital Recognition Network of Fort Worth, Texas, claims to collect plate scans of 40 percent of all US vehicles annually.
Digital Recognition Network, with the help of about 400 repossession companies across the United States, has increased the number of ­license scans in its database tenfold since September 2010, and the firm continues to add another 70 million scans per month, according to company disclosures. Digital Recognition's top rival, Illinois-based MVTRAC, has not disclosed the size of its database, but claimed in a 2012 Wall Street Journal interview to have scans of "a large majority" of vehicles registered in the United States.
Unlike law enforcement agencies, which often have policies to purge their computers of license records after a certain period of time, the data brokers are under no such obligation, meaning their databases grow and gain value over time as a way to track individuals’ movements and whereabouts.
Massachusetts private investigator Jay Groob said he uses the license plate database kept by a third data broker, TLOxp, paying $25 for a comprehensive report from the Florida-based company’s "very impressive" database of a billion-plus scans.
Groob said he would use the database to track a missing person or conduct background inves­tigations for child custody or marital infidelity litigation. Groob said he "absolutely" foresees vehicle location data becom­ing part of private investigators’ standard toolkit.
Entire article at
http://betaboston.com/news/2014/03/05/a-vast-hidden-surveillance-network-runs-across-america-powered-by-the-repo-industry/
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wrote:

If you use credit/debit/loyalty cards, "big data" knows where you go and what you bought there anyway.
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On 3/6/2014 9:26 AM, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Yes, but anyone with the money can buy access to these databases and use it for whatever purpose they wish. If you have somebody who really doesn't like you, imagine what they could do to/with you using those resources. There's nothing stopping nuts and stalkers from buying information on the people they're obsessed with.
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On 3/6/2014 11:12 AM, Moe DeLoughan wrote:

Maybe Elvis Presley isn't dead? Let me know if you find Marilyn Monroe, or the actress who did Dixie McCall, oh, wait, Julie London.
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wrote:

I am not quite sure how much damage they could do to me by knowing where I shop.
If I had a mistress or a dope dealer I wouldn't park in front of their house anyway. ;-)
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On 3/6/2014 11:08 AM, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

They also know where you live, where you work, how much you earn, how much sick and vacation leave you earn and use, where you get your insurance, what deductions are taken from your check (and for what), what kind of car you drive, where your car is frequently located, what you've been buying.
So if an employer doesn't want to hire a smoker, or a gun owner, or anybody else whose personal preferences he doesn't support, it makes it easier to screen applicants. Easier also to identify current employees as potential risks - do they buy a lot of booze? Charge a lot of prescription meds? Buy a lot of weapons? Oops, better keep an eye on them. Better still, let them go. Too risky. All of that is perfectly legal, too. There are no laws against discriminating against people on the basis of what they buy or use.

Insurance companies are using the license plate data to determine if people are lying to them about the use of properties they're insuring. For instance, if a person claims it's a vacation property, they're looking to see if the owners are actually using it as their primary residence. Or if there's a regular listing of plates that don't belong to the owner, it suggests they're using it as a rental.
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wrote:

Anyone with money has always had access to resources since money came into use. So what?
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Moe DeLoughan wrote:

Like other industries such as prisons (aka "corrections"), here in Canada there is no commercial viability for a privately-operated car-tracking service like that.
You do realize why such a service would be economically viable in the US - right?
Because your next bubble to burst will be either student loans - or car loans. You've been busy handing out money to any moron that can breath so he can buy a new car, and your repo men are very busy. We don't give car loans to dead beats here in Canada (not that there are lot of deadbeats).
And now I read that the sub-prime mortgage is back in the USA! You never learn - do you?
Your banks still have an enormous stockpile of forclosed homes that they've held off the market - to keep the market from imploding. It's a sad way to prop up home prices - and it won't work forever.
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On 03/06/2014 10:17 PM, Home Guy wrote:

Bad credit? No problem...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1JsgPHIiU0

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