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What can a citizen do with license plate data?

For a while our home boasted the largest Christmas light show in our state. We had over 120,000 Led's on our home as well as 8 outdoor cameras. This year I am installing two IP camera very close to our street to gather license plate data from cars coming and going. The cameras I have selected is Lorex varifocal 4K 30FPS. The purpose of all of this surveillance is to prevent vandalism. Apparently not everybody loves Christmas.

We did this Christmas light show for over 10 years and we suffered NO vandalism. Many of our competitors always report vandalism. Most of our outdoor cameras we have guarding our home and our display are of the PTZ type. While the light show is running at night, there is always someone in the home observing the display as well as most of the visitors. Santa, our street greeters, as well as an indoor person are always in communication with each other with hidden walkie talkies. Santa wears an ear bud in his ear to hear all radio activity at the light show.

In the past my 'ushers' (of course dressed as an elf) on the street that greets our visitors attempts to do a little friendly 'information gathering' so that when 'Santa' greets the same visitors, 20 minutes later, Santa seems to have the 'upper hand' with mysterious knowledge of their names, where they are from and often what they want for Christmas. This works real well with children and often their parents are very impressed with Santa's amazing ability to know 'hidden knowledge of who they are, where they live and what they want for Christmas.

Now back to the license plate data. Can a private citizen somehow use a government data base to see who is the owner of the car and where they live? Having this knowledge would take this to a new level with Santa knowing who the people are and where they live when INITIALLY greeting them. I don't want to break any laws but if this is legal and possible, the person in the house could read the license plate data and relay this information to Santa.

Aren't you John Smith who lives at 12345 Main street? Now, if you WERE John Smith and you did live at 12345 main street, woulden't you be blown away with Santa's amazing knowledge??

More magic?? Can this happen?
 

catcamstar

Known around here
Aren't you John Smith who lives at 12345 Main street? Now, if you WERE John Smith and you did live at 12345 main street, woulden't you be blown away with Santa's amazing knowledge??

More magic?? Can this happen?
I would definitely call the cops when a private person knows where I live by looking at my license plate.

Because:
- I have a non-private license plate
- that plate is nowhere linked to my private address
- my plates are changed every two-three years

Even cops do need to follow a "procedure" to know my exact whereabouts.

Have a look at https://eugdpr.org/, but hey, in the US&A people can do whatever they want, right :p
 

area651

Getting the hang of it
For a while our home boasted the largest Christmas light show in our state. We had over 120,000 Led's on our home as well as 8 outdoor cameras. This year I am installing two IP camera very close to our street to gather license plate data from cars coming and going. The cameras I have selected is Lorex varifocal 4K 30FPS. The purpose of all of this surveillance is to prevent vandalism. Apparently not everybody loves Christmas.

We did this Christmas light show for over 10 years and we suffered NO vandalism. Many of our competitors always report vandalism. Most of our outdoor cameras we have guarding our home and our display are of the PTZ type. While the light show is running at night, there is always someone in the home observing the display as well as most of the visitors. Santa, our street greeters, as well as an indoor person are always in communication with each other with hidden walkie talkies. Santa wears an ear bud in his ear to hear all radio activity at the light show.

In the past my 'ushers' (of course dressed as an elf) on the street that greets our visitors attempts to do a little friendly 'information gathering' so that when 'Santa' greets the same visitors, 20 minutes later, Santa seems to have the 'upper hand' with mysterious knowledge of their names, where they are from and often what they want for Christmas. This works real well with children and often their parents are very impressed with Santa's amazing ability to know 'hidden knowledge of who they are, where they live and what they want for Christmas.

Now back to the license plate data. Can a private citizen somehow use a government data base to see who is the owner of the car and where they live? Having this knowledge would take this to a new level with Santa knowing who the people are and where they live when INITIALLY greeting them. I don't want to break any laws but if this is legal and possible, the person in the house could read the license plate data and relay this information to Santa.

Aren't you John Smith who lives at 12345 Main street? Now, if you WERE John Smith and you did live at 12345 main street, woulden't you be blown away with Santa's amazing knowledge??

More magic?? Can this happen?
Setting legality per your locality aside, yes a regular citizen can purchase access to site where you can look up a license plate. If it's legal where you are, you'll have to research. As for if people would have a problem with it, I'm sure SOMEONE will as there's always someone who will get offended about you knowing public info. My personal guess though is that for a Christmas display, I'd venture to do it as it would be fun. But just know that I've seen instances on other forums where people got really twisted about you looking up their license plate and learning it all.
 

catcamstar

Known around here
Setting legality per your locality aside, yes a regular citizen can purchase access to site where you can look up a license plate. If it's legal where you are, you'll have to research. As for if people would have a problem with it, I'm sure SOMEONE will as there's always someone who will get offended about you knowing public info. My personal guess though is that for a Christmas display, I'd venture to do it as it would be fun. But just know that I've seen instances on other forums where people got really twisted about you looking up their license plate and learning it all.
I agree with "the fun" part, but face the downside: imagine you leave your condo at christmas, to do some "fun lightshow drive thru's". Hiding at the highway ramp, he scans all outbound vehicles, and in 5 minutes time, (s)he has a fancy list of home which are potentially emptied. And then you come home for a nice christmas present.

Naah, you didn't convince me, still 100% against it :)
 

catcamstar

Known around here
Hopefully you wouldn't call the cops on Santa would you?? That would certainly make you a recipient of a lump of coal in your stocking.
It indeed seems that you do not care much about privacy than others on this internet. Posting under your full name, location information and would you be happy that we could tell your age? But you are at Christmas time?
Naah, still not convinced :p
 

area651

Getting the hang of it
I get what you're saying. And hope I'm not coming across as confrontational but the point of the reply wasn't to convince you (or anyone really). :) It's fine, I'm joking and I think you are too.

I'm just saying there are legal ways in the USA to trace a vehicle's license plate. It can depend on where you are though.

Here's an example of someone getting really upset:
At my office in 2010(?), I had parked my motorcycle in the parking garage and someone boxed me in. I wrote down the plate, contacted someone who I knew had the subscription to one of the license plate sites and had them query the plate. I got her name, address, price paid for the car, amount financed and which bank. When I contacted the coworker and asked her to move the car so I could leave, she got really upset that somehow I knew who owned the car. (It was a mega company.) When HR confronted me for "stalking", which was a weird accusation as I had contacted her with one call to ask her to move the car, I had to explain that I was boxed in and just asking her to move. When HR asked how I knew it was her car, I showed them the printout and where you can join to get such info. That really opened their eyes to the info that is available online.

My personal opinion is that if your name, address, contact info was printed on your bumper, people would be a lot nicer on the roads.
 

catcamstar

Known around here
My personal opinion is that if your name, address, contact info was printed on your bumper, people would be a lot nicer on the roads.
I fully agree, but what about carjackers/car "loaners" who (intentionally?) harm people, street race or joy ride. It's your "private parts" hanging on that same car :)

But I liked your anecdote! Will never happen in .EU, or you will be jailed, no questions asked :)
 
It indeed seems that you do not care much about privacy than others on this internet. Posting under your full name, location information and would you be happy that we could tell your age? But you are at Christmas time?
Naah, still not convinced :p
I wont tell you my age but most likely I could be taken for any grandfather. I will tell you that I live in Colorado.

I'm trying to do GOOD here. Not bad. Santa NEVER does bad. If you received a lump of coal in the past, my guess is that you probably deserved it. I have indeed handed out lumps of coal in the past to viewers of our Christmas light show who refuse to follow simple etiquette rules. (parking in neighbors driveways, playing the audio of the show too loud in their car with windows down.)

I don't want this post to become an opinionated privacy rant just looking for a LEGAL way to possibly gather some very basic info so that when Santa approaches one of our guests to give them candy canes, he seems to know the family and where they live. How cool is that!!! I have never heard of a service or web site that I could subscribe to by tell me basic info about car ownership in America. If this is legal, can somebody point to a web site? Thanks --Greg--
 

StratRider

Young grasshopper
Personally, I am glad that this is very limited information. Just think of Road Rage incidents and you will see why.
You must be a very trusting guy but it creeps me out that in 10 minutes I was able to find pics of you and your wife, your house with address and your truck - but I find that disturbing.
Imagine now if someone didn't like the way you parked or drove and decided to retaliate in some manner.
I plan on setting up LPR just in case there is a neighborhood incident and it could help the police. We have a neighborhood website where people discuss those types of things.
But if a stranger started talking about those things to my kids - yeah, I'd be VERY concerned.
 

catcamstar

Known around here
You must be a very trusting guy but it creeps me out that in 10 minutes I was able to find pics of you and your wife, your house with address and your truck - but I find that disturbing.
Psssht, less than 5 minutes if you use non-common search engines :p But who knows, maybe the aforementioned forum name is not his real one :p /me flies away
 

tangent

IPCT Contributor
I wont tell you my age but most likely I could be taken for any grandfather. I will tell you that I live in Colorado.

I'm trying to do GOOD here. Not bad. Santa NEVER does bad. If you received a lump of coal in the past, my guess is that you probably deserved it. I have indeed handed out lumps of coal in the past to viewers of our Christmas light show who refuse to follow simple etiquette rules. (parking in neighbors driveways, playing the audio of the show too loud in their car with windows down.)

I don't want this post to become an opinionated privacy rant just looking for a LEGAL way to possibly gather some very basic info so that when Santa approaches one of our guests to give them candy canes, he seems to know the family and where they live. How cool is that!!! I have never heard of a service or web site that I could subscribe to by tell me basic info about car ownership in America. If this is legal, can somebody point to a web site? Thanks --Greg--
In may areas you'd have to be a licensed private investigator or pay a pi to access this info (abusing a pi license can also land you in trouble). Non-LEO access to the data may not be instantaneous. IIRC, Colorado's laws regarding license plate info are more restrictive than average but not as restrictive as CA.

Frankly, I think it's a really bad idea. It would encourage people to vandalize you more and circulate rumors about you. Then you'd probably get sued by somebody and have lots of legal fees.

I still think this would be a bit creepy, but without landing yourself in trouble you could:
Build a database of plates, populate it with information people tell you and reference it next year if they come back in the same car.
 
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tangent

IPCT Contributor
IIRC, your HOA is fairly strict when it comes to cameras and even goes so far as to require that your cameras can ONLY look at your own property.
Banning you from recording the street is a battle they'd probably loose in court. They'd end up just denying your request for another camera or revoking the existing one.

Turn in to a creep and your neighbors and HOA will turn on your cameras pretty quickly...
 
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J Sigmo

Known around here
Where I live, the local Rotary Club used to publish and sell a small book every year called the City Directory.

This had phone numbers listed numerically, with the owner's information, addresses with owner's info, and license plates with owner's info, etc.

At some point a number of years ago, they stopped publishing that information. I think escalating road rage incidents, stalking concerns, etc., made it either illegal, or potentially too dangerous from a liability standpoint.

This is an interesting discussion. Santa with an earpiece getting information from "researchers" is a fun idea. But it does remind me of the well-known cases of flim-flam evangelists using the same techniques to fool their audiences/congregations into believing they had a direct line to their deity.

Still, depending on the jurisdiction, license plate ownership data may well be public record, and legally accessible.

I do think, for proper effect, Santa should speak with the voice of Billy Bob Thornton, though! ;)
 

area651

Getting the hang of it
Where I live, the local Rotary Club used to publish and sell a small book every year called the City Directory.

This had phone numbers listed numerically, with the owner's information, addresses with owner's info, and license plates with owner's info, etc.

At some point a number of years ago, they stopped publishing that information. I think escalating road rage incidents, stalking concerns, etc., made it either illegal, or potentially too dangerous from a liability standpoint.

This is an interesting discussion. Santa with an earpiece getting information from "researchers" is a fun idea. But it does remind me of the well-known cases of flim-flam evangelists using the same techniques to fool their audiences/congregations into believing they had a direct line to their deity.

Still, depending on the jurisdiction, license plate ownership data may well be public record, and legally accessible.

I do think, for proper effect, Santa should speak with the voice of Billy Bob Thornton, though! ;)
One of the best Christmas movies EVER!!! (that's the first time I learned of Lauren Graham. oh my...she's a great actress)
 

SkyLake

Pulling my weight
While the light show is running at night, there is always someone in the home observing the display as well as most of the visitors. Santa, our street greeters, as well as an indoor person are always in communication with each other with hidden walkie talkies. Santa wears an ear bud in his ear to hear all radio activity at the light show.

In the past my 'ushers' (of course dressed as an elf) on the street that greets our visitors attempts to do a little friendly 'information gathering' so that when 'Santa' greets the same visitors, 20 minutes later, Santa seems to have the 'upper hand' with mysterious knowledge of their names, where they are from and often what they want for Christmas. This works real well with children and often their parents are very impressed with Santa's amazing ability to know 'hidden knowledge of who they are, where they live and what they want for Christmas.
How many spy / action movies did you watch in the past?? :lol: :winktongue:

If i had to do that much effort, just for a light show at my home, i would get a fort knox.

Don't get me wrong, no hard feelings. But to me it sounds more like securing a top secret mission. Nothing wrong with securing against vandalism though.

In the country where i live, it is not legally possible for a citizen to gather private data about a license plate. There are always other ways to get that information, but that would be highly illegal.
 

tangent

IPCT Contributor
Well, I want to put this discussion to rest and close it out. I am received the information that I need. Thanks everybody. --Greg--
Companies have collected mountains of data about all of us some of it pretty disturbing. A lot of it people opt-in to via the fine print in their credit card agreement, discount shopper program, etc. For example, if you frequent fast food restaurants and pay by credit card, getting life insurance becomes more expensive.

The key to big brother's success is that they don't advertise that they're doing this or offer a sufficiently enticing reward or discount in exchange. I can see why you might think if would be fun, but I think people would be creeped out and you'd find yourself on the local news for the wrong reasons. I think generally you're better off not calling attention to a private LPR system.

Actual ownership info is generally the most protected piece of information. Getting info like make, model, vin, year, sale history, maintenance history from a plate is easy. If you did decide to try a paying for a service that might be able to lookup ownership info, you should know that the info may not be accurate and they'll almost always tease you with bits of the easily available information. In certain states these companies may have access to data from the DMV (there's often a delay), but more often they've acquired access to some other source of the information that may not be as accurate.
 
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