California nears adoption for rules on license plate readers

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 9/2/2015

A push is underway at the California statehouse to put in place rules on the use of technology used to track drivers’ movements through automated license plate readers, or ALPRs.

High-tech cameras to capture the date, time and location that as they scan passing vehicles are used in some capacity by about 600 local and state police departments and other state and federal agencies, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Private companies, such as repossession companies, also use the technology that can capture about 1,800 images per minute.

The surveillance technology at times is credited with alerting law enforcement to the whereabouts of suspects wanted in connection with dangerous crimes. In recent days the technology is credited with notifying a Virginia state trooper to the location of the rental vehicle of the man who shot and killed a television reporter and a cameraman while they were doing a live report.

California State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-Mateo, is the sponsor of a bill awaiting consideration on the Assembly floor that would regulate use of the technology by the public and private sector. If approved there, SB34 would head back to the Senate for approval of changes before moving to the governor’s desk.

“SB34 establishes sensible standards for license plate readers to protect civil liberties and privacy while balancing law enforcements ability to use the technology to catch criminals,” Hill said while testifying before the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Entities in California using ALPRs would be required to adopt privacy policies and post the information online. A requirement would also be put in place to set policies on use and for how long data can be kept.

In addition, logs must be kept to keep track of each instance the license data is accessed and the purpose.

The California Highway Patrol is already prohibited from selling information collected for private use.

“Aggregated license plate data is powerful information. License plate readers make it easy for anyone, whether it’s the police, a private company or individual, to track and monitor the whereabouts of any person,” Hill recently testified.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California, click here.

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