Oklahoma Quietly Launched a Mass Surveillance Program to Track Uninsured Drivers
Cash-strapped governments are turning to tech that converts cameras into automated license plate readers to penalize uninsured drivers
In March, the president of Rekor Systems Inc., Robert Berman, told investors that 2020 was a “transformative year.” The surveillance tech company’s platform, Rekor One, which converts regular cameras into automated license plate readers (ALPR), had proven alluring to cash-strapped state governments during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Oklahoma, which has seen its tax revenue plummet alongside falling oil prices, announced a statewide rollout of Rekor One in November to track uninsured motorists. “The platform allows for real-time detection of non-compliant vehicles,” Rekor wrote in a press release, “and instant data consolidation into a regularly updating insurance database connected to the state’s enforcement programs.”
Some municipalities, including in Louisiana, Nevada, and Florida have been tracking uninsured motorists with ALPRs, but Oklahoma is the first to implement a statewide system. It will likely not be the last: During an earnings call with investors, Berman said that roughly a half dozen other state governments were “very receptive” to their platform, acknowledging that pandemic-related budget woes likely aided the company’s prospects.
Oklahoma’s rollout of ALPRs to track and bill uninsured motorists is another example of mission creep and expansion in the use of roadway surveillance systems. For years, governments have relied on surveillance companies to extract revenue through tolls and speeding tickets, though largely at the local and municipal level. The civil liberties organization Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Atlas of Surveillance documents over 800 bundled purchases of ALPRs by police departments.
The Oklahoma District Attorneys Council launched the Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Program (UVED) in 2018 in an attempt to clamp down on uninsured drivers. Rekor and the council tout the program as a relative improvement for the uninsured. Instead of receiving a criminal court summons and a $250 fine, uninsured motorists captured by Rekor’s cameras, which…