I always feel like, somebody’s watchin’ me
The American Civil Liberties Union revealed that the Virginia State Police have been targeting citizens who attend political rallies and tracking them via their license plates. Authorities have been using Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPRs) to collect information on peoples political activities. Police tracked citizens who went to President Barack Obama‘s 2009 inauguration as well as Gov. Sarah Palin‘s visits to the state.
In response to the revelation, the ACLU is calling for tighter controls to protect citizen’s privacy. The police created and maintained a database of millions of people, targeting them specifically to track their political activity. You don’t have to be suspected of committing a crime, only of practicing your free speech.
Civil liberties experts believe this would have a chilling effect on free speech if people know that they will be tracked and recorded for attending a political event. The International Association of Chiefs of Police stated that, “[t]he risk is that individuals will become more cautious in the exercise of their protected rights of expression, protest, association, and political participation because they consider themselves under constant surveillance.”
Attorney General and now candidate for Governor of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli wrote that the practice was a breach of privacy. His stance convinced the Virginia State Police to scarp the program, purge its license plate database and enact new methods in order to safeguard citizen’s privacy.