ACLU releases thousands of records detailing license plate surveillance methods

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KCPD squad car with license plate scanners (Courtesy: KCPD Chief Darryl Forte's blog: http://kcpdchief.blogspot.com/)

WASHINGTON – Government surveillance is a hot-button topic right now in America. The debate centers largely around Edward Snowden’s leak of NSA surveillance methods, but other issues are also emerging. Now it appears that your vehicle may be under the government’s indefinite watch as well.

Anne Flaherty of the Associated Press wrote in the Huffington Post that many local and state police departments have compiled millions of digital license plate records, detailing where and when the vehicle went.

The article focuses on a study published by the American Civil Liberties Union, who released more than 26,000 pages of documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests on Wednesday. The study says that information from scanners located patrol cars or bridges is being fed into large databases where it is store for at least months, sometime years.

Some jurisdictions, like Deerpark, New York police, only hold onto the records for 30 days. Contrast that with authorities in Yonkers, New York who keep the information indefinitely.

“There’s just a fundamental question of whether we’re going to live in a society where these dragnet surveillance systems become routine,” Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney said to the AP.

Both Missouri and Kansas have jurisdictions that utilize the technology. One section of the records obtained from Lenexa PD says it’s participation in the program in part is for:

  • Identifying suspended and revoked drivers and removing them from the road
  • Development and Maintenance of sexual predator hot lists
  • A searchable database for criminal intelligence

An interactive map of the entire country has links to the records requests for both Missouri and Kansas.

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