SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – California may become the first state to issue digital license plates that can be registered electronically and record tolls. Privacy advocates are concerned the plates could become tracking devices for law enforcement.
Instead of a metal license plate, the digital plate would be a computer screen, slightly larger than an iPad. Registering the plates could be done wirelessly.
Arbaaz Sohl of Petaluma told KPIX 5 that he likes the idea. “It’s a hassle to go to the DMV,” he said, “because there’s traffic and everything.”
State Senate Bill 806 would create a three-year pilot program to test up to 160,000 cars with electronic license plates produced by San Francisco-based startup Smart Plate.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles said the plates would save $20 million a year, since renewal tags would not be issued.
Supporters of the measure said the digital plate would look similar to the current plate, but it would also be able to register Fastrak tolls and display Amber Alerts to other drivers.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital privacy group, opposes the idea saying it doesn’t protect a driver’s location and personal information.
“Law enforcement needs a warrant to be able to put a tracking device on your car. It’s a possibility the way this program could be implemented, these smart plates could be that tracking device,” said staff attorney Nate Cardozo.
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TAP – most electronic devices have a viewing device. your ‘number plate’ could be the ears and eyes of the state.
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