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Constitutional Law

ACLU Asks Law Enforcement Agencies to Explain How Automatic License Plate Reader Data Is Used

Posted Aug 1, 2012 8:00 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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The American Civil Liberties Union asked police agencies throughout the country on Monday to provide information about how data from automatic license plate readers in patrol cars and next to roadways is being used.

Similar information requests were made by the national ACLU and individual chapters in more than 35 states. Information requests were also filed by the ACLU with the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the Department of Transportation, reports Reuters.

In Maryland, more than 300 of the devices have been in use since 2005 and data has been fed into a central repository for the better part of a year, the Baltimore Sun.reports. The city of Baltimore primarily uses the data from its approximately one dozen license plate readers to identify stolen vehicles, a police spokesman says.

"I think the privacy implications are huge, and there has been virtually zero public discussion," said David Rocah, a staff attorney for the Maryland ACLU.

Real-time checks of license plate numbers against crime databases are of relatively minimal concern, he told the Sun. However, if records are being retained for months or years, that increases the opportunity for invasive practices.

An ACLU press release provides further details.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Federal Cameras Are Snapping Time-Stamped Pix of License Plates in 4 Border States"

ABAJournal.com: "It Isn’t Necessarily Big Brother, But Somebody Is Potentially Watching, Virtually All the Time"

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