Reuters reported on July 31st that affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union in 38 states and Washington filed Freedom of Information requests with local and state authorities to find out whether law enforcement is preserving data on drivers' movements and locations longer than necessary. They are specifically concerned about data collecting by automatic license plate readers.
These readers are cameras mounted either on patrol vehicles or alongside roads that take photographs of every license plate that goes by. The ACLU says that each photo is typically stamped with the date, time and location and sent to a database. Officers are notified if a plate scores a "hit," matching a license plate that police are searching for.
No argument - the photographs can be helpful in criminal investigations such as auto theft. But how long are the records kept once they are pooled? Can they be used to keep track of an individual's movements?
According to the ACLU, only New Hampshire and Maine have statutes that regulate the use of automatic license plate readers. That's a little worrisome. The ACLU also filed Freedom of Information requests this week with the Justice, Transportation and Homeland Security departments seeking details on how those departments fund automatic license plate readers and use the collected data.
I'm not sure whether the glaciers or our privacy rights are shrinking more rapidly.
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