License Plate Readers scan the plates of passing traffic and take pictures of the fronts of cars. Mobile units can be affixed to law enforcement or parking enforcement vehicles and fixed units can be placed along roads and highways.
License plate readers are in wide use by both public and private actors. Northern California’s federal fusion center, NCRIC, the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, maintains a large database of law enforcement generated license plate scans. Public records requests to NCRIC have revealed that the fusion center replies to queries to its license plate database from ICE/HSI and DHS, as well as the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the IRS.
Private commercial entity, Vigilant Solutions, based in Livermore CA, is one of the largest license plate reader vendors and services many law enforcement agencies as well as private tow, repo and parking operators, placing all of the scans collected by its readers on the LEARN platform, which hosts the law enforcement oriented database NVLS (the National Vehicle Locator System) and a more general database, both of which Vigilant sells. The NVLS database has 2 billion scans and the broader LEARN system contains over 6 billion scans.
CLEAR has been sold to ICE. (See the data brokers page for the contract).
And in January of 2018, Vigilant inked its own contract to make NVLS directly available to ICE as reported by The Verge. (Contract below. The Verge’s reporter obtained verification from ICE that the vendor was Vigilant Solutions. There is a long history of Vigilant providing intermittent access to NVLS to ICE and Homeland Security going back to at least 2010 in public records documentation released by EPIC and ACLU.
NCRIC External Partner Requests 913 to 1213
Access to Commercially Available LPR Database - Federal Business Opportunities_ Opportunities
EPIC ICE-NVLS FOIA Part 1
EPIC ICE-NVLS FOIA Part 2
EPIC ICE-NVLS FOIA -Part 3