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Top News

ACLU Attacks License Plate Readers

July 17, 2013  | 

Photo: POLICE file
Photo: POLICE file
License-plate readers give law enforcement a location tracking tool that may violate constitutional privacy rights, the American Civil Liberties Union argues in a new report released today.

The new attack on LPR technology comes after an ACLU review of agency policies about how long data is stored and how it's used in investigations. Agency policies governing those areas vary widely, according to the group.

"The spread of these scanners is creating what are, in effect, government location tracking systems recording the movements of many millions of innocent Americans in huge databases," said ACLU Staff Attorney Catherine Crump, the report's lead author. "We don't object to the use of these systems to flag cars that are stolen or belong to fugitives, but these documents show a dire need for rules to make sure that this technology isn't used for unbridled government surveillance."

The Los Angeles Police Protective League that represents LAPD officers refuted the argument that LPR data violates privacy in a guest blog post ("LPR Protects Officers and the Public") on PoliceMag.com. LPR technology does "nothing more than what officers have been doing manually since the creation of the license place: writing down license plate numbers, or radioing license plates in for checks against criminal databases," the LAPPL wrote in the post.

For its study, the ACLU collected data from agencies in 38 states that revealed a range of records management policies. Some departments delete records within days or weeks, some keep them for years, while others have no deletion policy.

"The fact that some jurisdictions delete the records quickly shows that it is a completely reasonable and workable policy," said Allie Bohm, ACLU advocacy and policy strategist. "The police should not be storing data about people who are not even suspected of doing anything wrong."

By Paul Clinton

Tags: License Plate Recognition, ACLU Activism, Fourth Amendment


Comments (11)

Displaying 1 - 11 of 11

bman @ 7/18/2013 5:58 PM

An LPR salesperson told me that the systems do not run random plates because the speed at which they do so would make CJIS and NCIC terminals crash. There for, they must be preloaded with hot sheets from a given jurisdiction or expired tags and so on. So they literally only compare tags to a set database vs running and storing tag and location information. This is vitally important that people know so they are educated before the ACLU spills their non-sense.

Ima Leprechaun @ 7/18/2013 11:02 PM

You are not allowed to run any plate without criminal probable cause. That is in Federal NCIC rules and state IC rules, it is a felony to do so. A plate reader on any public vehicle or commercial vehicle violates both the NCIC and state rules and the 4th and 14th amendment to the US Constitution. This is not non-sense as some here state but I realize most here have never read the US Constitution. The ACLU is right on this particular subject. Plate readers automatically store every plate read in a database for future recall. So while they may not run every plate at that exact moment, every plate "read" can be searched for and recalled within the database at anytime showing the exact time and location it was read.

raydog @ 7/19/2013 12:00 AM

Lol. The comment above is absurd. You dont need PC to run a plate sir.

ALR204 @ 7/19/2013 12:47 AM

Last time I checked Driving on the road was a privilage not a right that required people to register vehicles. If people are afraid they can take mass transit.

ChiefG @ 7/19/2013 4:38 AM

Ima, what a suitable name you have selected. First, maybe do some case law research before making legal statements about common police practices. It is not a search nor an arrest to run a plate therefore no constitutional requirement for probable cause exists. That is constitution 101 for you. 2nd, if you travel in the public, people like the ACLU have made it clear anyone can be videotaped anywhere, anytime in the public without consent and that can be posted for all the world to see, just look at all the people making a part-time job out of being disorderly and baiting cops into arresting them for acting a fool. ALR204 makes a good point, I don't see driving a car being listed in there with the right to life, liberty, free speach and the like, therefore the governmenr can regulate it. If you fear big brother, shred your credit cards, get a PO box, move to a remote area of the country and commute by horse. I'm sure if a friend or family member gets killed by a serial killer and police use historical plate data to narrow down his area of frequent operation which leads to an arrest, you would have no problem with it. Everyone thinks the local cops are wrapped up in "big brother" business and nothing could be farther from the truth. The ACLU needs to monitor real problems not go looking for something to create controversy over, but that is how they get in main stream media, make a big stink.

FireCop @ 7/19/2013 4:48 AM

It's the old saying, if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about. All this great tool does is get those who failed to pay for their license plate, or stole the one they're displaying, or have no insurance, or are driving under suspension, off the road. Before they cause a wreck that might involve a member of my family or yours. Like I said, great tool. ACLU, find something useful to focus on. Stay safe.

Capt. Crunch @ 7/19/2013 11:43 AM

The irony of this is we as law-abiding tax payers have to pay for the services of the ACLU,which we do not want. The government would save a lot of money if the ACLU, was put out of business.

Trigger @ 7/24/2013 8:50 AM

Amazing, the ACLU must not have anything important to do. What was one of their staff caught parking someplace, at sometime, with someone that they should not have been.

Blue Bird @ 7/28/2013 12:14 AM

When you display a license plate as required by law in every state I know of, that becomes a public display. If you display it, there is no privacy concern. The ACLU has nothing better to do than create issues out of nothing and file frivolous lawsuits.

Greg @ 8/28/2013 4:26 AM

Get rid of both the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)...the SPLC is nothing but a racist and leftist group that hates conservatives, classic values and demonizes most males...and yet this group is used by way too many police agencies for information about terrorists etc. Bad news.

concerned citizen @ 9/13/2013 6:37 PM

The ACLU is defending the rights of free citizens. You know, the same free citizens that you are tracking. ACLU right, police wrong.

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