License plate cameras becoming police tool

July 18, 2013 5:12:29 PM PDT
Whether you've broken the law or not, police may have pictures of you driving around town. That's because license plate recognition cameras are quickly becoming a standard police tool, and that has some raising privacy concerns.

Police argue they are using those license plate readers as crime-fighting tools. But the ACLU just released a report saying it has some serious concerns with how your information is being shared and stored.

"I think there's definitely concerns," said concerned motorist Cody Pederson.

Automated license plate readers tracking cars, snapping photos and collecting data for many police departments as you're traveling in some areas are at the center of a national controversy.

Tom Hargis with the ACLU of Texas said, "These police departments, with no policies, are collecting and storing data on everybody."

The license plate reader cameras are big concerns with the American Civil Liberties Union right now. It released a report this week finding police departments across the country are using inconsistent policies storing the data the cameras are collecting.

"The Fourth Amendment essentially creates a line that the government should not cross, and our concern is that when data is being collected on millions of innocent people, and being stored indefinitely, there are major privacy concerns there," Hargis explained.

I did some checking with local police agencies that use license plate readers for surveillance. Among them:

  • Sugar Land PD uses dozens of cameras and say the data is stored for less than 30 days.
  • Houston PD says it has a number of limited units says it doesn't store the data. They say the information is overwritten after a certain amount of days.
  • Pasadena PD is using one license plate reader. A spokesman says the department doesn't store the information, rather transmits it to Homeland Security.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union says he bottom line with this report is that they're urging lawmakers and police departments to establish uniform policies to better protect the public's privacy.

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