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New Technology for Scanning Moving Devices

According to Forbes, US police are testing new technology that can scan moving vehicles for anything that emits a signal. This includes recognizing smartphones, smart watches, chips for pets or even books from the library, according to Leonardo from Italy, which is also the manufacturer of the mentioned equipment.

The new technology, named Elsag EOC Plus, is part of the license plate readers from Elsag, but it can also be used as a standalone surveillance device. It is designed to assist the police in monitoring suspects on the move. Privacy advocates for Forbes state that this technology could be misused to track individuals across the country without warrants and learn about them by identifying their belongings without their knowledge.

Leonardo company officials say the tool can identify specific device models like iPhones and headphones inside moving vehicles, as well as unique signals emitted by pet microchips, all devices with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, fitness trackers, car systems, tire pressure sensors, and even electronic tags in library books. For the police, all this data can be linked to vehicle license plates and become a unique “fingerprint.” As a person travels through other license plate scanners, their fingerprint can be tracked even if the driver or passenger changes vehicles.

“For example, while in 30 out of 100 cars there may be an iPhone, only one will have an iPhone 12rev2, an Audi radio, a pair of Bose headphones, a Garmin sports watch, a key finder device, and the license plate ABC-1234. The dataset representing these specific items constitutes an electronic signature,” explain the Leonardo company representatives. The customers for this new technology are not only police departments or public roads. The company states that the technology could also be useful in “non-road areas, such as railway stations or shopping malls.”

Leonardo spokesperson Nate Maloney stated that the company recently obtained a patent for the technology and is “moving full steam ahead” in its desire to sell the product worldwide. However, political analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Matthew Guariglia, warns of the potential misuse of such technologies, stating, “It’s hard to think of a case where this technology can be used, as the police already have license plate readers. This is born for abuse, not only because of how it can be used to track people, but also because it provides a clear list of all the electronic devices someone has.”

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