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IRS to track license plates

Published: April 18, 2014
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Source: Bloomberg

The Internal Revenue Service and other U.S. agencies awarded about $415,000 in contracts to a license plate-tracking company before Homeland Security leaders dropped a plan for similar work amid privacy complaints.

Federal offices such as the Forest Service and the U.S. Air Force’s Air Combat Command chose Livermore, California-based Vigilant Solutions to provide access to license plate databases or tools used to collect plate information, according to government procurement records compiled by Bloomberg.

Vigilant, a closely held company, has received such work since 2009. In February, Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, ordered the cancelation of an immigration agency plan to buy access to national license plate data. While the technology can help solve crimes, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have said the mass collection of data infringes the privacy of innocent people.

“Especially with the IRS, I don’t know why these agencies are getting access to this kind of information,” said Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based privacy-rights group. “These systems treat every single person in an area as if they’re under investigation for a crime -- that is not the way our criminal justice system was set up or the way things work in a democratic society.”

IRS officials awarded the company a $1,188 contract for “access to nationwide data” in June 2012, according to records available online. That contract ended in May 2013, according to federal procurement records.

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