North Carolina move to restrict license plate scannersWednesday, August 7, 2013 at 8:31 am by Chris Burnett
Have you ever felt like somebody is watching you? If you have, it’s because they are–and in more ways than you think. Recently Americans have discovered that NSA surveillance was much more expansive than they could have imagined. We are also being tracked by our license plates. You may have been able to escape the government spying on your conversations by avoiding using the telephone, but now just driving to work can reveal your location and daily habits.
Throughout the country, cameras have been attached on roadways, patrol cars, billboards, stoplights, and almost any other object you can imagine. These cameras take a series of images of people’s license plates and store the information for as little as 48 hours and sometimes indefinitely.
Automatic license plates detectors have been developed and implemented under the ruse of catching criminals. Just imagine your child being abducted in a car that sped away, how would you find them? Or a person that has just held up a convenient store and the police are in hot pursuit of the getaway car? It would be a great idea to have something that could capture these vehicles’ information so the search for justice could go on. It is in these situations that automatic license plate detectors seemed like a great idea. But information and power can be abused.
The reality of the situation has become that innocent people are being tracked on their way to work or picking up their kids from school. Automatic plate detectors have become just another tool to gather data on innocent civilians who have done nothing wrong. This activity has gone to unprecedented heights in North Carolina, where ACLU attorneys have turned their attention to the issue.
According to ACLU spokesperson Sarah Preston the ACLU does not object to vehicles involved in crimes being tracked but,
Our findings show a dire need to enact safeguards that will protect the privacy of North Carolinians and ensure that this technology does not lead to the routine tracking of innocent people who have done nothing wrong.
Currently, the ACLU has collected information from 38 states that have been using automatic plate detectors. All 38 states showed that there were few to no restrictions on automatic license plate detectors. In some cases people’s information was being kept up to five years with an estimated ten million plus stored plate reads. The largest states focused on have been New Jersey, Minnesota, California, and Texas where the plate collection varied the most.
Due to this excessive use of license plate tracking, the North Carolina state legislature is considering bill S.B. 623 to provide appropriate safeguards to protect location information and require a warrant before law enforcement may share information collected by automatic license plate detectors, which must be purged after ten days unless a warrant is issued.
The bill will enforce what the ACLU considers a core American principal, “that the government does not invade people’s privacy and collect information about citizens’ innocent activities just in case they do something wrong.” By supporting this bill people will be telling the government that, “Clear regulations must be put in place to keep the government from tracking our movements on a massive scale.”