A License to Pry

Published on March 10, 2011
by Michael Hickins, an online start-up, is creating a way for people to ping each other using their license plates. The company’s founder, Mitch Thrower, compares the service to online coupon and location-sharing sites–with one exception. “It’s like a Groupon or Foursquare that you can’t turn off,” he told Digits.

You can’t turn it off because the service will capture your license plate whether you like it or not. But to receive virtual fist-shaking, finger-pointing, or flirty messages from fellow motorists, or the “special offers” from merchants that Thrower hopes will pay his company for access to your in-box, you actually do have to sign up and identify yourself as the owner of your license plate.

The service works by using images of license plates snapped by other people using their cell phone cameras, or by license plate numbers people can send via telephone, a special email address, or a smartphone app. The company has already captured more than 250,000 license plates from a combination of messages sent by beta testers and publicly-available video feeds like cameras at toll booths, according to Thrower.

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