Cameras Snap Your License Plates for Huge Databases [Video]
The government and private companies are using automatic license plate readers (LPRs) to gather the license numbers of cars on the streets of cities and towns across the country. These gadgets snap pictures of the plates, time stamp the photos and record the GPS coordinates. You don’t even have to be a criminal suspect. You just have to drive a car.
Lawyers.com journalist Ed Alpern investigates how the LPR technology is affecting your privacy rights. Some people say the readers and databases are effective ways to fight crime. Others call it an infringement of your civil rights.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police evaluated the privacy issues with LPRs. Their 2009 report acknowledges there is no uniform set of rules or even guidelines suggesting the appropriate uses of LPRs and the limits of sharing the captured data.
The ACLU filed FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests with 587 state and local agencies, and the federal government. The civil liberties group wants to know how much data is being saved, for how long and what’s being done with the information kept in the database. According to the ACLU website, 85 percent of law enforcement agencies will have automatic license plate readers within the next five years.
ACLU staff attorney, Catherine Craft, says it’s one thing to use the information to see if a car is stolen or if there is an arrest warrant out for the driver of the car. However, she warns against the gathering of information from license plates on a massive scale and storing this in databases that are never deleted.
Watch our video and you can decide whether the government and private companies (including auto repossession companies) are going too far?