For now, federal law and Supreme Court precedent dictates that law enforcement has the authority to legally monitor anyone in public. The basic idea is that none of us have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” when we are in public. So just as the police can capture us with video cameras and license plate readers, so, too, could they contract with AV automakers to simply get at vast quantities of future AV data. And if the companies don’t want to play ball, such data can be accessed with a mere court order (known as a “d-order”) under the Stored Communications Act of 1986.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has officially gained agency-wide access to a nationwide license plate recognition database, according to a contract finalized earlier this month. The system gives the agency access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking, raising significant concerns from civil libertarians.