Police Questioned About Use of License Plate Data

Technology moves fast – those on the cutting edge today are already behind by tomorrow. While many of these new gadgets are designed to make our lives easier, some of them could end up jeopardizing our privacy. With courts slow to react to new technological advancements, often police are able to gather a wealth of information before some of their questionable procedures are stopped.

This information can be used for many reasons. Officials may use a GPS to track someone suspect of a drug crime, or they may use cameras to monitor high-crime areas. No matter how the technology is used, law enforcement relies upon these devices to help make their cases against individuals suspected of crimes.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently requested that law enforcement agencies throughout the country reveal their policies concerning license plate readers. Each jurisdiction may have different scanner devices that capture the license plate data. Generally, police may have them installed in their squad cars, or motorists may see them attached to traffic lights.

When a vehicle passes the scanner, the time and location of the vehicle is recorded. This information is relayed to a data center, where it is kept for a specific period of time. The ACLU wants to know how long the agencies keep this data, and what policies are in place for handling information.

The ACLU feels that these scanners can store too much data, for example, every time a vehicle passes that information is kept and can be used if officers feel it is necessary. ACLU has requested information from several Arizona law enforcement agencies, including the Phoenix and Chandler police departments. Once the organization understands the procedures, it may decide to challenge some of the policies currently in use.

Source: KPHO.com “ACLU requests information about license plate readers” Lindsey Reiser, August 3, 2012.