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post #1 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-06-2017, 12:32 PM Thread Starter
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Help me understand...

At this and other automotive forums I see many people taking great measures to black out their license plates when showing photos of their cars. While I'm sure it has something to do with privacy I just don't get it.

I can drive around all day long recording thousands of plates and gathering information, and if the car is parked in a public spot I can even read the VIN # through the windshield. What kind of nefarious activity is forestalled by blacking out a plate shown online verses driving around displaying your plate in public?

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post #2 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-06-2017, 01:14 PM
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Can anyone besides law enforcement look up plates to get personal info?

The risks I can think of (disregarding how trivial or unlikely) are:
- Someone being able to look up your personal info like address and being able to come steal the nice car or anything else you have in the pictures you are posting.
- Preventing someone from replicating and impersonating your plate (save on tolls or commit a crime? unlikely, but not impossible).
- Preventing someone on the internet who might not like you from filing falsified accusations against you. If I hated the interactions I had with someone, I could theoretically call in an anonymous tip they did something so the police would give them a headache. Not much work for the person making the fake tip for a whole lot of headache for the other person.

Not that any of the risks I can think of sound likely to happen, but taking 5 seconds to cover it up may be a low cost for the reward of eliminating all those risks.

A little related to the subject but not really; police cruisers are equipped with plate scanning devices that read plates looking for criminals, but those devices also log where cars are parked. Police can go through mall parking lots, or really any parking lots or streets, and log what cars are there. The justification behind this is they can find criminals easier with these devices identifying them by their plates, or if you go missing they can know where you frequent and check there first, or if the police need to get in contact with you they have info on where they might be able to find you. Not to sound all "big brother is watching," but it is a shocking amount of data out there about you that is connected to your license plate. Here is a (little out-dated) example of this in your very own Wisconsin: FOX6 Investigators: New device helps cops track criminals (as well as the innocent) | FOX6Now.com

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post #3 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-06-2017, 01:19 PM
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@GR82DRV - In the past, many states would provide the personally identifiable information (PII) associated with a license plate at the request of anyone - you didn't have to be law enforcement. Some states provided this for free, some charged a small fee. As a desire for privacy and concerns around theft and harassment became more obvious, the Driver's Privacy Protection Act was passed by Congress in 1993. This law limits who can access DMV records and for what purpose.

So it used to be prudent to obscure your license plate in photos, but has not been necessary for the last 24 years. It's a good thing this issue isn't just coming up now: I suspect the current Congress would be inclined to make our information freely available to anyone who thought they could monetize it.

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post #4 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-06-2017, 03:40 PM
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Might just be web-lore, but I've heard of insurance coverage or warranty repair being denied due to track use identified by forum posts. If you like to post about how the de-cat sounds on the street, you also probably shouldn't post a pic showing your plate.

Maybe the risk is minimal, but then again obscuring the plate is pretty easy. :shrug;
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post #5 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 10:43 AM
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They do it to minimize risk. The same reason Google blurs out all license plates in street view mode.
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post #6 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 12:25 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by +TSRAGR View Post
They do it to minimize risk. The same reason Google blurs out all license plates in street view mode.
What risk? Google is a mega-company that wants to avoid any remote possibility of obnoxious suits for exposing someone else's privacy - if that case could even be made. Even then, it's hardly like an individual showing his own plate.

It just seems so so far fetched that nobody can really explain it - like an urban myth embedded in our midst and accepted at face value.
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post #7 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 01:14 PM
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It's silliness, every time you drive tons of people see your plate. Not sure why people are so scared to put it on the web. Most likely, if you drive a Lotus, someone else has taken photos, your plate included, and posted it on the web. Probably many times over every year. People are always taking photos of my car.

People are just being paranoid.
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post #8 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 01:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GR82DRV View Post
At this and other automotive forums I see many people taking great measures to black out their license plates when showing photos of their cars. While I'm sure it has something to do with privacy I just don't get it.

I can drive around all day long recording thousands of plates and gathering information, and if the car is parked in a public spot I can even read the VIN # through the windshield. What kind of nefarious activity is forestalled by blacking out a plate shown online verses driving around displaying your plate in public?
It makes no sense, the people doing it are simply clueless.

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post #9 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 01:31 PM
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I would rather shop for really nice niche cars to steal online and get their home address, rather than drive around hoping to find a run of the mill Lotus to steal. How many folks have found the Lotus they want to buy on the street rather than online. Its easy to find out where a car lives with just a license #, its unfortunate, but nothing is really private anymore.

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post #10 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 02:32 PM
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It's a waste of time. The real irony is when people black out their license plate, but leave the geotags that pinpoint exactly where the pic was taken and when.
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post #11 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-14-2017, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by XtinctElise View Post
I would rather shop for really nice niche cars to steal online and get their home address, rather than drive around hoping to find a run of the mill Lotus to steal. How many folks have found the Lotus they want to buy on the street rather than online. Its easy to find out where a car lives with just a license #, its unfortunate, but nothing is really private anymore.

If someone wants your car they will get it whether you black out your plate or not.

Oh and I found my car driving down the street and saw it out of the corner of my eye. Short time later I was driving it home.
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post #12 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-14-2017, 02:54 PM
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I prefer to blank out my entire car from pictures. It's much safer that way.
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post #13 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-14-2017, 03:44 PM
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^hahahaha
That IS much safer.

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post #14 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-14-2017, 04:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by XtinctElise View Post
Its easy to find out where a car lives with just a license #,
And how exactly would you do that?

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post #15 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-20-2017, 05:18 PM
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It's a waste of time. The real irony is when people black out their license plate, but leave the geotags that pinpoint exactly where the pic was taken and when.
LOL.

I asked this very question here some years back and I didnt get an answer that didnt fall apart when I responded by pointing out that Im driving around on public roads all day anyway and anyone who wants to see the plate can plainly do so.
Heck, other people have taken pics of my cars so what do you do about that?
Anyway.....

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post #16 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-20-2017, 05:20 PM
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I prefer to blank out my entire car from pictures. It's much safer that way.
Haha!

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post #17 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-21-2017, 09:19 AM
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I'll try again. Some folks like to post things that they may not want others in some authority to know. For instance, you might not want your insurance company to know that you use your car for HPDE or time trial events, or maybe you like the sound of your de-cat (AKA test pipe) on the street (a federal offense), or that maybe you beat a Mustang at a stop light derby the other night. If you like to post about such things, posting a pic of your car with the license plate visible in the same forum, under the same forum ID, is probably not a good idea. Of course this may not apply to everyone that blanks out their license plate, but it certainly could be true for some.

It was some years ago, so I don't have a link ready at hand, but I do recall reading on a forum that a dealer service department refused warranty repair based on evidence of track use from an auto forum (not Lotus). I also seem to recall someone getting insurance coverage refused for an incident that happened on track, but that minor detail had been left out from the owner's claim (could be construed as fraud), and the insurance company found evidence of the track incident on-line. Both of these scenarios seem unlikely, but why take the chance? If it's online, it's easy enough to find, only question is if the adjuster or service manager bothers to look.

I have to agree that worrying about someone stealing your car after they tracked down your location based on a pic of your license plate is baseless, but why assume that's the reason the owner/poster did it?
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post #18 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-21-2017, 10:34 AM
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people want to be shady. you're just giving out free PII.

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post #19 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-21-2017, 10:54 AM Thread Starter
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I suppose if we're being really paranoid we shouldn't post anything on LT that alludes to our own cars. It's really easy to look up a member's posting history and see if it jives with a car he/she is selling and representing. Of course, the easiest way to live is simply to tell the truth and never worry about being "uncovered". Or, at least don't post anything that can look like you are wantonly breaking laws or deceiving the public if you think it would have negative repercussions.

That said, the idea that law enforcement has time to troll the internet hoping to prosecute random local ordinance violations seems remote. Street racing and other really dangerous stuff is different, and if you do it you deserve to be prosecuted regardless. In that case, I don't think a blacked out plate will deter the law anyway.

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post #20 of 40 (permalink) Old 04-21-2017, 11:11 AM
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I suppose if we're being really paranoid we shouldn't post anything on LT that alludes to our own cars. It's really easy to look up a member's posting history and see if it jives with a car he/she is selling and representing. Of course, the easiest way to live is simply to tell the truth and never worry about being "uncovered". Or, at least don't post anything that can look like you are wantonly breaking laws or deceiving the public if you think it would have negative repercussions.

That said, the idea that law enforcement has time to troll the internet hoping to prosecute random local ordinance violations seems remote. Street racing and other really dangerous stuff is different, and if you do it you deserve to be prosecuted regardless. In that case, I don't think a blacked out plate will deter the law anyway.
So let's see, there's a whole thread about failing to understand why someone might not want to post a photo of their license plate, all the discussion is about fear of auto theft, I take the time to explain why there might be other reasons for some posters, and this is what I get back? Awesome.

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