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California mall chain helps sell customers' license plate data to police

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The parking lot a Brookfield Square Mall nears capacity in the early morning hours on November 26, 2010 in Brookfield, Wisconsin. In California, a shopping mall chain admits it uses a surveillance enfor that sells license plate data to police. File Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI

By Ray Downs, UPI

A California company that operates several malls in the state is sending license plate information to local police, according to a report published this week by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocacy group.

The Irvine Company operates 46 shopping centers across California uses a surveillance technology vendor called Vigilant Solutions to monitor cars in its parking lots in three of its locations. Vigilant Solutions then sells the data it collects to local law enforcement, the EFF said.

[post_ads]Automatic license plate readers "are a form of mass surveillance" that can gather a slew of information from license plate numbers by converting the plate into plaintext characters and appending a time, date, and GPS location.

"This data is usually fed into a database, allowing the operator to search for a particular vehicle's travel patterns or identify visitors to a particular location. By adding certain vehicles to a 'hot list,' an ALPR operator can receive near-real time alerts on a person's whereabouts," the report states.

The Irvine Company confirmed its use of Vigilant Solutions and acknowledged its role in the collecting and selling of people's location data.

"Irvine Company is a customer of Vigilant Solutions. Vigilant employs [automated license plate readers] technology at our three Orange County regional shopping centers," the company said in a statement. "Vigilant is required by contract, and have assured us, that ALPR data collected at these locations is only shared with local police departments as part of their efforts to keep the local community safe."

The locations where data is collected and sold to law enforcement are all in Orange County and include the Irvine Spectrum Center in Irvine, the Fashion Island in Newport Beach and The Marketplace in Tustin.

Vigilant Solutions also allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement to use its database via a contract it signed with the agency in January. But a spokesman for The Irvine Company told Buzzfeed News this data only goes to local law enforcement agencies, not ICE.

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U.S. - U.S. Daily News: California mall chain helps sell customers' license plate data to police
California mall chain helps sell customers' license plate data to police
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