'Find Your Car' system in US gaining fans amidst privacy concerns

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 24, 2011 10:10 hrs

Santa Monica Place in US has installed the nation's first camera-based 'Find Your Car' system, which can help absent-minded shoppers locate their vehicles.

Shoppers who have lost track of their vehicle amid a maze of concrete ramps and angled stripes can simply punch their license plate number into a kiosk touch screen, which then displays a photo of the car and its location.

Doug Roscoe, senior manager of Santa Monica Place, said the system, which uses a network of cameras and a central computer, "has proven so far to be a big assist".

"We don't have close to as many direct assists," LA Times quoted him as saying in reference to a security person driving a frantic shopper around in an electric cart to find a vehicle.

But the new system has also brought out privacy concerns, with people questioning if the array of 24/7 surveillance cameras could be worth the loss of privacy.

Steven Aftergood, a senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, which studies national security issues, said people should understand that the technology is being forced upon them.

"What should give people pause is that this technology is advancing upon us without anyone having chosen it," Aftergood said.

"We have not decided as a society or as individuals that we want this convenience. It is being thrust upon us," he stated.

The car finder is just one of many license plate imaging and facial-recognition devices that have proliferated in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, popping up in airports, border crossing stations, toll ways and police cruisers.

Experts say privacy concerns arise if the information is saved for a long time and shared, experts say.

"What if a divorce attorney came and asked who was in the mall? Or someone looking to repossess vehicles for past non-payment?" Chris Calabrese, the American Civil Liberties Union's legislative counsel in Washington, said.

"The unintended consequences can be huge," he stated. (ANI)

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