The spread of automated license plate readers has privacy advocates concerned because although the majority of photos taken are of non-offenders, they can still be used to create individual mobility profiles.
After being refused a request to see public data records collected from automated license plate readers in the Los Angeles area, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are now suing the city police department and the county sheriff’s department. Their goal: “[T]o figure out how this data is stored and shared, and whether agencies should have tighter policies to limit what happens to those snapshots of your car once police realize you didn’t steal it.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Law enforcement departments across the country now rely on automated license plate readers to help with solving vehicle-related crimes. However, in the process of recording the bad guys, they pick up thousands of good guys as well, amassing a lot of data that could be assembled to create detailed personal mobility profiles of individuals. EFF lawyer Jennifer Lynch says these profiles “not only [reveal] where you’ve been in the past, but [can also] anticipate where you might be in the future.” Ironically, while law enforcement agencies assert their right to collect license plate data on the grounds that it’s public, they also argue that they can’t release the data they collect on the grounds that it’s not public.