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Department of Homeland Security withdraws request for national license scanner database

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license plate scanner (from canandaigua, NY)
license plate scanner (from canandaigua, NY)

The Department of Homeland Security has withdrawn a request for businesses to develop a national database filled with license plate numbers collected by police scanners, The Washington Post reports. The database was revealed by Ars Technica, which discovered a series of documents posted online last week by the DHS's Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If created, such a system would potentially allow police to track cars between cities more effectively. Though likely years away from becoming reality, the database as a concept drew concern and backlash among privacy advocates over potential misuse by authorities.

An ICE spokesperson tried to backpedal on the idea of the database this evening, telling The Washington Post the documents had not been reviewed by the organization's leaders before posting. However, the removal of the documents does not indicate that DHS and ICE are scrapping the plan altogether. The agencies could simply be taking the program out of the hands of private contractors for now, and may even re-publish the documents in the future. A statement from the ICE spokesperson to The Post indicates as much: "While we continue to support a range of technologies to help meet our law enforcement mission, this solicitation will be reviewed to ensure the path forward appropriately meets our operational needs."