Not only is this illegal, it's morally wrong.
Technology is an incredibly useful tool, but sometimes it oversteps its boundaries and makes George Orwell's predictions come true in a creepy kind of way. We already know that almost anything we post onto the Internet is traceable back to us, but what's worse is when technology is used to monitor our whereabouts and habits. That's exactly what the Philadelphia Police Department was doing with a device called a ELSAG MPH-900 that reads license plates of passing cars using an infrared camera.
It then logs them into a database with a time, date, and GPS stamp along with a picture of the vehicle. Think that's criminal? It should be, but it gets worse from here. Not only is this technology being used across the US, but the Philly license plate reader was housed inside of an SUV that had decals detonating it as a Google Maps car in order to mask intentions and explain the sensors. Not only is this an outright lie (and a poorly fabricated one at that), but it is highly illegal. An email statement from the PPD commented and said, "We have been informed that this unmarked vehicle belongs to the police department; however, the placing of any particular decal on the vehicle was not approved through any chain of command."
They further elaborated, "Once this was brought to our attention, it was ordered that the decals be removed immediately." A Google spokesperson also said that the company is looking into the matter and will comment once they know more. Vice News interviewed Brandon Worf, who worked for a company that specialized in public safety. He told Vice that the technology is "scary efficient" and is used to find stolen cars and vehicles tagged by AMBER alert, collect unpaid taxes and fines, and even disrupt drug traffickers. Worf also said that these systems are usually not disguised, which should raise questions as to what the PPD was doing with a device like that. Think twice before you moon that Google car. Google Decal Photo By Matt Blaze.