License Plate Readers, Sharing Your Data?

Mike Paczesny | The Rundown Live

You should feel safer, knowing that parking enforcement is sharing, and even selling your meta-data, yes, even if you weren’t pulled over. Local police departments capture pictures of every license plate that crosses the equipped vehicles(soon to be all cameras) and store the data, in some cases forever.

Thanks to federal grants, even small of agencies now have the high-tech machines, creating databases where more than 99 percent of the entries represent innocent people.

The ACLU warns, there is, “a one-in-a-million chance that the cameras might aid in the apprehension of a serious criminal.

Plate readers are the most pervasive system of location tracking that people haven’t heard of,” said Catherine Crump, a privacy lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union.”Even though virtually all of us have had our cars logged into these databases, few know this technology exists.”

Image: LPRThe plate readers are capable of  storing mass amounts of data. Jersey City, NJ collected 2 million plate numbers during 2012. A statewide directive requires police agencies to preserve data collected for five years, leading to conclude that the city has 10 million license plate records.

The state of Maryland collected 85 million plates in 2012. Of those, only 1 in 500 resulted in a “hit,” and 97 percent of those hits were minor violations such as failure to comply with emissions testing rules. Only 47 were associated with what the ACLU identified as potentially serious crimes.

Retention Policies: All Over the Map

In short, Maryland’s license plate readers collect massive amounts of data, almost none of which are tied to any known or even suspected wrongdoing,” the report said.

Some agencies do not store data long, but in Los Angeles County it retains data for two years, the Delaware Department of Homeland Security, keeps it for five, and Yonkers, NY, retains it indefinitely.

Six states already have laws regulating the use of ALPR data, and at least 14 states are considering laws that would curb ALPR data collection.

It even has been reported communities place cameras at the main entrances and exits from their cities, logging each car that arrives and leaves. Geo-fencing?

The Department of Homeland Security often gains access to the information through data sharing arrangements.

Virginia State Police recorded license plates of cars attending campaign rallies for President Obama and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2008 and 2009.

Should innocent people end up in a database? These readers are being adopted by law enforcement agencies without proper privacy safeguards.