License plate readers are also sending your data to private companies
Your license plate could be getting scanned several times a day, in order to spot foul play, but law enforcement agencies aren't the only ones doing it.
Private companies are also scanning your license plates, vehicle information and travel locations. And the data they collect may be sold to still other businesses.
According to Al Della Fave, spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, automatic license plate readers are available to anyone who's willing to purchase them. A quick Google search will produce a number of options.
"If someone wants to utilize that type of technology and has the money, they're free to purchase it," Della Fave said.
One unit costs $15,000, on average.
Todd Hodnett, founder and executive chairman of Digital Recognition Network, said a number of New Jersey "repossession service providers," or repo companies, have purchased their equipment.
The companies upload their "wanted" list with DRN, their trucks scan plates during their travels, and they get alerted when they spot a vehicle that's sought for repossession.
"Assuming the account is still open, they repossess the vehicle," Hodnett said.
Every scan, though, whether or not it's a match, goes into DRN's centralized database and can be used in other ways.
Concern from advocates across the country has focused on exactly who has access to license plate data.
Either other customers could be alerted of their repos being spotted, or insurance companies could be provided data to assist them in recovering stolen vehicles.
"We only do business with other businesses, and that business must have a permissible purpose under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act to obtain the underlying license plate that they're asking us to cross-check our data against," Hodnett said.
In the last four years, he said, DRN has assisted in the recovery of over 347,000 vehicles worth over $2.5 billion.