Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the license plate readers that some law enforcement agencies across the country have been using. A report was recently given by the ACLU raising concern over the number of plates read and the data retention policy of the various city police that are using them. They believe that as the time and location of the plates is registered into a database it could become possible to know a lot about the lives and habits of anyone driving a car. So my question is how do you feel about them?
Some facts about them:
-In some areas the millions of license plate captures are stored indefinitely.
-Apparently the information is also freely available to the public in some areas after public records requests. The Minnesota StarTribune was able to get information about the tracking of the Minneapolis mayor and one of their reporters.
-At this time in at least a few areas any officer can enter the license plate number of any car, whether it is on a "hot list" or not and have access to all its information.
-As of yet, the data shows that this technology has not been working as a deterrent against car thieves and other automobile crimes, although it is a relatively new technology with little public awareness. Police do claim there has been a vast increase in success rate of recovering stolen cars and solving other crimes.
-It is an automated and more efficient process of a practice that officers have been doing for years. Previously police would mark down the same information about any car they deem suspicious and later check it against a huge list of license plate numbers that the police are looking for.
-Police believe these are crucial to stopping car theft and amber alerts.
Personally, I think the technology is useful and I don't mind its use with some conditions.It is public activity they are documenting and you don't really have a reasonable expectation of privacy when driving around. It's different than the collection of private data by the NSA for example, and I believe its a crucial distinction. But I don't think any officer should be able to request data of any car that is not on some sort of "hot list" of cars the police are looking for. Police also justify the indefinite keeping of these records by saying they could potentially help stop future crimes. I don't really buy that as justification, as I think the chances of that are very small. I would advocate a short retention time or possibly even the immediate disregard of license plates not linked to a "hot list." Other than that, I believe they can be a useful tool in the recovery of stolen vehicles and the rescue of kidnapped children.What say you?
Driving somewhere? There's a gov't record of that | Fox News
Policing advocates defend use of high-tech license plate readers - CNN.com