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The problem with creating billion dollar bureaucracies like the Department of Homeland Security for insignificant threats like “terrorism” is that the administrators have nothing better to do all day but think of new ways to justify their existence and expand their power. Enter DHS’ newest proposal to create a national license plate tracking system.

Forget escaping to the open road, now you are merely a target outside your normal location – a cause for concern.

As panopticon America closes in, the surveillance industry is set for another pay day to track the citizenry wherever and whenever they dare drive in the land of the free (range). And no, privacy is not a concern.

The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to provide a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place.

The national license-plate recognition database, which would draw data from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their paths, would help catch fugitive illegal immigrants, according to a DHS solicitation. But the database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and could be shared with other law enforcement agencies, raising concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized.

Forget terrorists, there might be other brown people causing trouble. The illegal immigrants could be driving on your streets – surrender your liberties, quick.

But don’t worry, all the information will be held by a private corporation relying on a government contract. I’m serious, that was the defense given of this program by an actual government spokesperson.

The database would enhance agents’ and officers’ ability to locate suspects who could pose a threat to public safety and would reduce the time required to conduct surveillance, ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said.

“It is important to note that this database would be run by a commercial enterprise, and the data would be collected and stored by the commercial enterprise, not the government,” she said.

Don’t you feel better? The information will be in private hands, like Koch Industries. The government won’t store the information, they will just retrieve it whenever they want from a government contractor – that preserves privacy somehow. It’s not a surveillance state, it’s a corporate capitalist surveillance state. Progress.

We simply do not need these surveillance systems but will surely see more and more of them because both government bureaucrats and their fellow traveling corporate profiteers have every interest in the world to justify sticking their snouts in the taxpayer trough. Meanwhile, the country becomes less free and lot more boring.

Photo by Arpingstone under Creative Commons license.

Update: The plan has now been canceled.