Bringing back the “need-to-know basis”

I was reading this story on about how security at Arden Fall mall used license plate scanners and HD cameras to help police arrest a car thief and couldn’t help but think, “should they really be telling us this stuff?”

One quick scroll down to the comments area (my love/hate with comments continues, btw) and I found I was not alone.

but I wish they wouldn’t release information like this to the media. There are a lot of effective tools out there for law enforcement that have been effective because the bad guys don’t know what they are or where they are. Now there is a better chance that bad guys will know not to drive stolen cars to the Arden mall, which will reduce the effectiveness of the program.

So, what’s your take? Does publicizing these advanced security measures simply help educate would-be criminals to commit craftier crimes? Or, does knowing about this stuff prevent someone from attempting an illegal act? I’m leaning toward the former.

What about you?

Author: RonTopofIt

RonTopofIt is a complex personality, as are most of the small breed of modern day renaissance millionaires. He wishes more people were like him and yet believes that it takes all kinds. You've met RonTopofIt many times, you just don't remember him.

11 thoughts on “Bringing back the “need-to-know basis””

  1. I saaw this on the news too. The old Arden Mall has (had) a reputation as a crime hotspot. Arden mgmt is making a smart business move by advertising to the bad guys to stay away and to encourage shoppers that it is a safe place. Well timed announcement just ahead of the holiday shoppping season, too.

    I am not sure I am comfortable with government using video survellance and license scanners in public spaces. But kudos to a private enterprise if it works for them.


  2. @cogmeyer – Tough call though, because in this case a private enterprise is collecting hours of HD video and turning it over to the cops whenever they can. This guy didn’t commit a crime on their property (well, I’m sure that parking a stolen car is a crime).


  3. @Turty_Squip – from a Time magazine article:

    Automated license-plate-recognition systems (ALPRs) mounted in patrol cars are capable of processing 1,500 license plates a minute, capturing a vast amount of data about the movements of both criminals and law-abiding citizens. For police, ALPRs allow them to solve auto-theft cases, pick up wanted felons or monitor the movements of sexual predators. But privacy advocates fear the collected data may be mined for other purposes. For example, one side of a divorce case could potentially look through toll-plaza records for circumstantial evidence of adultery.

    I am curious as to how this private security company was able to obtain these high-priced tools. Not to mention the privacy issues. But, whatever, at what price safety, right?

    What concerns the American Civil Liberties Union and others is the accumulation and storage of the vast amount of data collected by the scanners. “We were disturbed when we began to see the technology used as a generalized surveillance tool,” says Jay Stanley, a spokesman for the ACLU. Privacy advocates worry, for example, that the data could be used to examine who attended a political event or protest.


  4. I’m sure there’ll be an augmented reality iPhone app for this soon. We should file the first SacRag patent before someone else jumps on this.

    You’ll be able to scan a parking lot with your phone’s camera and all of the stolen vehicles will be highlighted in red. The sex offender’s cars will have big blue dots over them. Cars which have been in an accident will be indicated in yellow. (so you know that the driver might be reckless).
    How long until this is part of a HUD in our cars? Some of the new cars are mobile hotspots now.


  5. RonTopofIt

    I looked into the license scanners a while back, and a fixed camera version was around $6K. Obviously more to network it into a moving vehicle. But overall probably in the range of the cost of a mall patrol vehicle, and probably a pretty small part of the annual Arden Mall security budget.

    While we consider the current situation of government and private businesses using scanning tools, we should expect the next big concern will be the use of scanners by private citizens. Today I could cash out my kids college fund and mount a license scanner on the tree in front of my house, and record the license plate of every vehicle that goes down my street. I could in essence record the comings and goings of each of my neighbors. Is this legal? Is it any different than a video system? Have I violated people privacy, or am I just capturing information on travellers on a public roadway?

    This questions will come as the cost of the technology comes down in the next few years.


  6. Good stuff, cogmeyer. Just because technology is better, does it mean we should get all worked up about privacy? Such a gray area. Like the thing about not being able to record a phone conversation without the person’s consent. Is that even a real law? If so, can these criminals sue because they were being monitored/recorded without their consent?

    Makes your head spin it does.


  7. Thanks for the info Ron. Tho Glenn got it.
    You can’t record anything without consent, unless there is “no expectation of privacy.” Like if you are at a public ACLU meeting. Everyone is fair game. Ditto your front lawn. But if I call one person from my bathroom and forget to hang up, they don’t get to record my end of the remaining “conversation” and post it on their Facebook page.


  8. I think some of the people here make a lot of good points. This “advanced technology” probably isn’t all that advanced or expensive. I don’t have a problem with recording this kind of information, but I do have issues with what it could be used for – especially if it gets into the hands of the wrong people. I don’t think the news reports really gave away any top secret security tactics.


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