States approve, near adoption for rules on license plate readers

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 8/12/2015

New rules in place in North Carolina cover 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 as vehicles pass 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 North Carolina law requires state and local enforcement agencies considering the use of ALPRs to adopt a written policy on the use of such a system before it is operational.

Previously SB182, the new law also permits enforcement agencies to keep data for up to 90 days, unless the information is relevant to a crime. Exempt data would be destroyed within one year.

Captured data could only be accessed by a federal, state or local law enforcement agency for “a legitimate law enforcement or public safety purpose.”

The new law takes effect Dec. 1, 2015.

In California, a similar effort nearing passage at the statehouse would regulate use of the technology by the public and private sector.

The Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee voted unanimously to advance a bill to require entities using ALPRs to adopt privacy policies and post the information online. Entities would also be required to set policies on use and on how long data can be kept.

In addition, logs must be maintained 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.

Sen. Jerry Hill, D-Mateo, said the bill would establish reasonable privacy and transparency requirements.

“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 said during a hearing on the bill.

SB34 awaits consideration on the Assembly floor. If approved there, it would move back to the Senate for final approval before heading to the governor’s desk.

Across the country in New Jersey, A4547/S2974 would set regular audits of agencies that use the readers.

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