Earlier today, security researcher Matt Blaze tweeted out this photo of what’s allegedly a Pennsylvania State Police SUV. It looks like it’s outfitted with a license plate reader (see those cameras on the top?). Blaze contends that not only is this a police vehicle, but it’s disguised as a Google Street View truck. Wait, what?
[Update, 12:33pm: PA Police say the vehicle doesn’t belong to them. Further details are below.]
At first glance it almost looks like someone photoshopped that Google Maps logo on the side of the SUV. But one indication that it’s probably not a Photoshop job is that you can see the bubbles on the vinyl sticker:
Still don’t see it?
It’s entirely possible that some prankster put the sticker there, though it seems like getting one printed would be a lot of effort for a silly joke. There’s also the possibility that this isn’t a vehicle operated by the Pennsylvania State Police. We have a call into the PA Police and will update this post when we hear back.
If it is the police, it’s a pretty dumb plan. As Blaze points out in a later tweet, it’s a terrible disguise and would no doubt just attract more attention to the SUV and its clandestine activities. Have you ever been looking at Google Street View and noticed how many people stare directly into the camera? The police may as well have put a sign on the side that said “free ice cream, nothing to see here.”
Update 12:33pm: Trooper Adam Reed of the Pennsylvania State Police told me that the vehicle is definitely equipped with a license plate reader but that it doesn’t belong to them.
“I was able to confirm that that’s not one of our vehicles in that tweet,” Trooper Reed told me over the phone. “They’re used by any number of agencies, but we wouldn’t have any set up like that that I’m aware of.”
So whose vehicle is it and why would they be disguising themselves (poorly) as a Google Street View car? We’re still trying to figure that out. If you have any tips please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update 1:08pm: While the PA State Police say the vehicle isn’t theirs, Matt Blaze maintains that the vehicle had a Pennsylvania State Police placard in the window.
Update May 12, 2016, 5:20pm: The Philadelphia Police Department have now admitted that the vehicle belongs to them. They’re launching an inquiry into who authorized the placement of the Google Maps sticker on the car.