Police Cameras Are Recording License Plate Information As They Drive Around

Very troubling technology.  This means that there will be no privacy whenever your registered vehicle is visible from any public place.

The following is a summary.  The full article, from the Seattle Times, is available here.

The thousands of photos are entered into a Seattle Police Departmentdatabase where, for the three months before they are destroyed, they’ll be available for use in criminal investigations.

…Automatic license-plate readers have been in the arsenal of large police departments for nearly a decade, but are now getting new scrutiny amid broader concerns about government surveillance.

…In Seattle, which piloted the technology in 2006, public records indicate 12 police units collected about 7 million license-plate records last year, identifying 426 stolen cars and 3,768 vehicles with at least four unpaid parking tickets.

…“These devices got rolled out, thrown out there without any real thinking or policies, and it opened up a new world of concerns,” said Jamela Debelak of the ACLU’s Washington state branch.

…Mayor Mike McGinn ordered the SPD to ground its drone program in February, and the City Council voted the next month that more public input was needed before police activated cameras along the waterfront.

Ryan Calo, an assistant law professor at the University of Washington, said license-plate readers may be the biggest issue of all because they can randomly travel around the entire city, collecting information and storing it.

…Seattle police have not moved as quickly as in cities like New York City and Washington, D.C., which now rely heavily on license-plate readers.

…The parking program has five units (two minivans, two cars and a truck) that identify stolen cars, issue parking citations and, most of all, find vehicles whose owners have at least four parking tickets.

…The Washington State Patrol uses ALPR cameras on the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry, at truck weigh stations and on patrol cars looking for stolen vehicles, said spokesman Bob Calkins.

…Washington, like most states, does not have any law about license-plate readers (the Legislature did approve a bill last year to regulate red-light cameras).

…But Bruce Harrell, who chairs the Seattle City Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee, and is running to unseat McGinn, said he doesn’t think police should use the database for after-the-fact criminal investigations.

…“At the very least,” said Taylor, R-Moxee, “I’d hope that local law-enforcement agencies, if they’re going to do this, would at least have a discussion about it.”