The Mass Surveillance nobody talks about

The Mass Surveillance nobody talks about

Jonathan Hofer
Show Date
September 18, 2022
ConstitutionCivil LibertiesLaw EnforcementBig GovernmentTechnology
Independent Institute

When does a license plate camera count as a violation of liberty?

When you hear the words “mass surveillance,” you probably think of Edward Snowden’s revelations that the NSA tracks everything we do online. However, such surveillace may not be our greatest concern. Jonathan Hofer, a research associate at the Independent Institute, notes that the most prolific tool of mass surveillance is in fact automated license plate readers (ALPRs).

His report on the worrisome new technology caught my attention, and I wanted to learn more. What I didn’t know when I invited him on my show is that Hofer himself was the victim of an error in the vast, byzantine database that law enforcement uses to link license plate numbers with suspected criminals.

Listen to find out how Hofer ended up with his rental car being surrounded by half a dozen patrol cars, before being tackled to the ground by an armed police officer in a dark parking lot on a cold November night (Spoiler alert: he wasn’t guilty).

While the presence of cameras on the roads may not seem like a threat to our liberties, Hofer’s personal story, and the countless other similar anecdotes he relays, should give us pause about adopting such technology given the propensity for serious “user error.”

Read the report and listen now to understand the legal, ethical, and constitutional issues at play.