MA Inspection Station Cameras Spy on More Than Just License Plates: NMA E-Newsletter #487

From guest writer Joe Cadillic of the MassPrivatel Blog.

Since October 1, 2017, Massachusetts vehicle inspection sticker stations have each been required to purchase five cameras to record vehicles in real-time.

The new system called Mass Vehicle Check (MVC) requires inspectors and stations to spend between $5,710.00 – $8.141.00 dollars on government-approved surveillance gear.

Forcing vehicle inspection stations to pay for government surveillance cameras sounds familiar. It reminds me of police cam-share programs like Project Green Light, that are popping up across the country. (Click here to find out more about police cam-share programs.)

To call the MVC program intrusive doesn’t really do it justice.

Last October, an article in the Boston Globe warned everyone that inspection stations are spying on much more than your license plate.

“Service stations will now use cameras to ensure accurate inspections, document the status of vehicles being inspected, and allow for video conferencing for inspectors if they need technical support, the RMV said. Vehicles arriving for inspection will have photographs taken of their VIN, odometer, front license plate, and back license plate. Staff members conducting the inspection will also be photographed.”

Inspectors are required to use a handheld camera to record a vehicle’s VIN and mileage. But an October 2017 Boston TV investigative news report claimed the camera is also equipped with facial recognition software.

“The inspection station owner said he attended training and spent about $8,000 to purchase all the required technology, including software, handheld cameras and facial recognition.”

Imagine pulling up to a state inspection station and have the police show up because your vehicle was flagged by law enforcement for failure to pay child support, excise tax or because it got a hit from a secret hotlist. In some states, police could be called because a person couldn’t afford to pay a parking ticket.

Massachusetts uses Applus Technologies inspection equipment to record vehicular data in real-time. Applus is an international company that boasts that their services are being used by 70 countries.

“New still-photograph cameras, wireless testing equipment, improved workstations, sticker technology that prevents fraud, and tablets that RMV staff use for real-time reporting.”

According to the Massachusetts DOT, Applus is being paid close to $30 million dollars to keep a database of every driver.

Applus doesn’t hide the fact that ‘they work with government at all levels – city, county, state, national and international’.

Does anyone really think law enforcement doesn’t have access to vehicle inspection records?

At last year’s American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators conference, a two- hour law enforcement roundtable discussion was held to discuss information sharing (page 4) and mobile drivers licenses (page 8).

If you still have doubts about companies collecting and sharing personal vehicle information, check out DMV123 which offers real-time data to ‘qualified companies’ (wink, wink).

Given Applus’s record of working with government agencies at all levels, it’s safe to assume their database is accessible to lots of government agencies.

Turning inspection stations into mini-data collection centers is just wrong.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of the author.

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