License Plate Readers Raise Privacy Concerns

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A new report from the ACLU reveals license plate readers used by most police departments are doing a lot more than locating stolen cars. Jean Elle reports. (Published Thursday, Jul 18, 2013)

    Your license plate is revealing more than you know.

    Bay Area police departments using automatic license plate readers are looking for stolen cars and suspects linked to crimes, but in the process they are collecting a mountain of data about people who are just driving by.

    The American Civil Liberties Union says those readers are documenting where you are and when, and that data is being stored, sometimes indefinitely.

    "When you are just collecting information without thinking why do I need this, who is going to get it, how long will it be stored, how will I make sure these rules are followed, that’s a concern and a situation ripe for abuse," says ACLU attorney Chris Conley.

    San Leandro resident Mike Katz-Lacabe wanted to see what police see so he requested the data linked to his car.

    He says San Leandro Police had a lot of data about where he had been.

    "In some instances you can tell where I am in one," Katz-Lacabe said. "It’s in my driveway as my daughters and I get out of the car."

    San Leandro Police officers say the department stores the information for a year and has rules about who can access it.

    But Katz-Lacabe wonders if data can be used in divorce court or in a political campaign.

    The ACLU says police have no need to store personal information about people investigators have no interest in and with so many departments collecting so much data it's time for lawmakers to develop strict rules every department must abide by.