Pennsylvania and New Jersey are among 35 states in which the ACLU is demanding data on how automated license plate readers are being used to track people’s movements.
The automated readers, which are affixed to light polls, traffic lights and other objects in public areas, are intended to help police track down criminals or solve crimes. But the ACLU is concerned about what it believes is routine tracking of people as well as about the creation of huge archives of historical ALPR data. According to the ACLU, few states have laws requiring that the data be destroyed if they don’t produce useable law enforcement information, such as a record of an outstanding warrant.
“Automatic license plate readers make it possible for the police to track our location whenever we drive our cars and to store that information indefinitely,” Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in release. “We have a right to know whether our police departments are using these tools in a limited and responsible manner, or whether they are keeping records of our movements for months or years for no good reason.”
In Pennsylvania, the ACLU has sent requests to 14 police departments, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the state police.
The ACLU maintains a web site on its efforts to get the license plate data.