Cops Released a Car’s Travel History to a Total Stranger

In a rare instance of too much transparency, an Ohio police department released the precise movements of a particular vehicle in response to a public records request, showing just how invasive license plate reading technology can be.
Cops Released a Car’s Travel History to a Total Stranger
Image: 404 Media.
404 Media is a journalist-owned website. Sign up to support our work and for free access to this article. Learn why we require this here.

At 8:56 a.m. on Saturday April 27, a car was on a road just off the highstreet in Orrville, Ohio. A couple of minutes later, at 8:59 a.m., it was spotted at another location. Then at 9:07 a.m., the same car was on a street towards the center of the small city. Nearly an hour later, it was spotted farther south.

All of this information is included in a PDF of precise timestamps and approximate locations related to a certain license plate, and by extension, driver, which the Orrville Police Department provided as part of a public records request. But the requester wasn’t the owner of the car, and the police did not verify their identity at all, meaning that a stranger simply requested the movements of another person’s car, with the police obliging. 

Sign up for free access to this post

Free members get access to posts like this one along with an email round-up of our week's stories.