ICE is about to start tracking license plates across the US


The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has officially gained agency-wide access to a nationwide license plate recognition database, according to a contract finalized earlier this month. The system gives the agency access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking, raising significant concerns from civil libertarians.

The source of the data is not named in the contract, but an ICE representative said the data came from Vigilant Solutions, the leading network for license plate recognition data. “Like most other law enforcement agencies, ICE uses information obtained from license plate readers as one tool in support of its investigations,” spokesperson Dani Bennett said in a statement. “ICE is not seeking to build a license plate reader database, and will not collect nor contribute any data to a national public or private database through this contract.”

Reached by The Verge, Vigilant declined to confirm any contract with ICE. “As policy, Vigilant Solutions is not at liberty to share any contractual details,” the company said in a statement. “This is a standard agreement between our company, our partners, and our clients.”

While it collects few photos itself, Vigilant Solutions has amassed a database of more than 2 billion license plate photos by ingesting data from partners like vehicle repossession agencies and other private groups. Vigilant also partners with local law enforcement agencies, often collecting even more data from camera-equipped police cars. The result is a massive vehicle-tracking network generating as many as 100 million sightings per month, each tagged with a date, time, and GPS coordinates of the sighting.

ICE agents would be able to query that database in two ways. A historical search would turn up every place a given license plate has been spotted in the last five years, a detailed record of the target’s movements. That data could be used to find a given subject’s residence or even identify associates if a given car is regularly spotted in a specific parking lot.

“Knowing the previous locations of a vehicle can help determine the whereabouts of subjects of criminal investigations or priority aliens to facilitate their interdiction and removal,” an official privacy assessment explains. “In some cases, when other leads have gone cold, the availability of commercial LPR data may be the only viable way to find a subject.”

ICE agents can also receive instantaneous email alerts whenever a new record of a particular plate is found — a system known internally as a “hot list.” (The same alerts can also be funneled to the Vigilant’s iOS app.) According to the privacy assessment, as many as 2,500 license plates could be uploaded to the hot list in a single batch, although the assessment does not detail how often new batches can be added. With sightings flooding in from police dashcams and stationary readers on bridges and toll booths, it would be hard for anyone on the list to stay unnoticed for long.

Those powers are particularly troubling given ICE’s recent move to expand deportations beyond criminal offenders, fueling concerns of politically motivated enforcement. In California, state officials have braced for rumored deportation sweeps targeted at sanctuary cities. In New York, community leaders say they’ve been specifically targeted for deportation as a result of their activism. With automated license plate recognition, that targeting would only grow more powerful.

For civil liberties groups, the implications go far beyond immigration. “There are people circulating in our society who are undocumented,” says senior policy analyst Jay Stanley, who studies license plate readers with the ACLU. “Are we as a society, out of our desire to find those people, willing to let our government create an infrastructure that will track all of us?”

The new license plate reader contract comes after years of internal lobbying by the agency. ICE first tested Vigilant’s system in 2012, gauging how effective it was at locating undocumented immigrants. Two years later, the agency issued an open solicitation for the technology, sparking an outcry from civil liberties group. Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson canceled the solicitation shortly afterward, citing privacy concerns, although two field offices subsequently formed rogue contracts with Vigilant in apparent violation of Johnson’s policy. In 2015, Homeland Security issued another call for bids, although an ICE representative said no contract resulted from that solicitation.

As a result, this new contract is the first agency-wide contract ICE has completed with the company, a fact that is reflected in accompanying documents. On December 27th, 2017, Homeland Security issued an updated privacy assessment of license plate reader technology, a move it explained was necessary because “ICE has now entered into a contract with a vendor.”

The new system places some limits on ICE surveillance, but not enough to quiet privacy concerns. Unlike many agencies, ICE won’t upload new data to Vigilant’s system but simply scan through the data that’s already there. In practical terms, that means driving past a Vigilant-linked camera might flag a car to ICE, but driving past an ICE camera won’t flag a car to everyone else using the system. License plates on the hot list will also expire after one year, and the system retains extensive audit logs to help supervisors trace back any abuse of the system.

Still, the biggest concern for critics is the sheer scale of Vigilant’s network, assembled almost entirely outside of public accountability. “If ICE were to propose a system that would do what Vigilant does, there would be a huge privacy uproar and I don’t think Congress would approve it,” Stanley says. “But because it’s a private contract, they can sidestep that process.”


This is great news! Now I can start doing anonymous tips with license plates only. Right now you need name and identifying information to do an anonymous tip to ICE. Hopefully this solve that problem.


Most social networks and smartphones already track your locations and will turn them over to the police in a moment notice, so i dont see why tracking the licence plates get everyone scared.


Ok for the FISA warrants and recording al conversations of Americans but not for license plates.

What kind of joke is this???


ALL that needs to be done is head to your local sanctuary Cities and start shooting fish in a barrel ! :wink::laughing::laughing:


License Plates are something that’s in plain public view. If it will help ICE do their job and track down illegals who frequently drive uninsured and without drivers licenses then I’m all for it.


Just another brick in the wall my friend… I still use a 2g phone… and don’t use social networking sites…


Here in the UK license plate readers track everyone and are use as timers in car parks… pull up a license number and they can tell you where you have been and how long you have been their… They issue automatic traffic tickets, pay tolls and insure that your registration, inspection and insurance is up to date… slip a day or have a foul up with payment and you are likely to be stopped. It, along with the pervasive nature of cameras and facial recognition is pretty off-putting and considering the number of major data breaches… altogether the big brother nature of it all is quite off putting. We of course have been desensitized to all of this invasiveness in a mind-numbingly slow way and of course in ways that we think are a mere game like pokeman that has you chasing a little image to a place where they have you take a picture of it and exactly what they want you to photograph…


ICE and DHS are a joke if you try to contact them.


Every move you make today is recorded.

At every traffic light a camera.
In stores camera’s.
In parking lots, camera’s.
In our neighborhoods, cameras.

Unless you go to flyover country, your recorded.


I did not know that. Its interesting when leftists always admire Europe as some sort of liberal socialist paradise, so culturally diverse with universal healthcare etc… yet Im sure they would also yell the loudest when they are there, with the license plate tracking you mentioned, and abortion laws that make it illegal in most European countries to abort any case past 12 weeks.


The UK is considered to be the most surveiled westernized country in the world…

And that was in 2013… !

Funny you should mention the universal health care… this on the news today… the stats in this article is from 2015 but the BBC report updated the stats… and they are worse…

Of course the clarion call is, more doctors, more nurses, more equipment, better medicine availability… and as always, more funding for the NHS…


And leftists would also rail against the treatment of people with “pre existing conditions” as well, but hey, the grass is always greener on the other side.


And there is the higher taxation rate.

Always ignored by the left when it comes to socialized medicine.


Its with most of these disillusioned amd self- aggrandizing leftists who also yell “It was not true socialism”. The only true thing on display here is the Dunning-Kruger effect you can often find in every post of the illiterate bernie bot.


Great news that a federal agency is going to be tracking license plates across the country. A precedent acceptable now because it’s going to have an effect on illegal immigrants which makes such a bad idea palatable to some.


Theres a camera on you where ever you go.

On the roads, parking lots, neighborhoods, stores, work, few places where your face isn’t on record especially in the cities.


I remember the first traffic camera put up in Texas… it must have cost the state an absolute fortune to keep replacing that camera… shot at, pulled out of the ground with truck and chain, and once even blown up… government in the hands of people who care little for the constitutional grounding of our government encourage the slippery slope of government ‘care’ and ever expanding largess. Care to join the mindset of the Freedom Caucus?.. No?.. I didn’t think so.


And yet, when Obama spied on 5 million Americans along with journalist and friendly World leaders you remained silent !!! SHRUG !:roll_eyes::roll_eyes::roll_eyes::roll_eyes::roll_eyes:


People complain about cameras at traffic signals, though they help law enforcement when there’s accidents at traffic signals. Stores and banks get robbed that surveillance camera comes into play. The other 99% of people in the footage are meaningless and disappear off the loop.