License Plate Scanners

Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR)

From the NSA to License Plate Readers: Are We to Have a “Collect it All” Society?

From the NSA to License Plate Readers: Are We to Have a “Collect it All” Society?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:44am

If the NSA needs a slogan, it should probably be “collect it all.” As phrased by an anonymous intel official recently quoted by the Washington Post, that has apparently been the approach of agency leadership in recent years. But the fight over whether that’s an appropriate strategy for keeping order in a democratic society is one that stretches far beyond the NSA programs now being debated.

For example, look at automatic license plate recognition systems, which are now sprouting up around the country. As we detailed in our recent report on the technology, many police departments are collecting and storing not only information about vehicles that are wanted by the police, but also location information about everybody who drives a car. Some police have defended this practice by arguing, essentially, that “you never know when or what we might need to solve a crime.”

In other words, nobody who accepts the NSA’s argument that universal collection is the right answer ought to be surprised when

License Plate Readers: Just Don’t Keep Data on Innocent People!

License Plate Readers: Just Don’t Keep Data on Innocent People!

By Katie Haas, Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 11:42am

Our recent report on license plate scanners, You Are Being Tracked, reveals a lot about the privacy problems caused by the proliferation of this technology. But the report also shows that there are simple solutions that would go a long way toward transforming…

The Chilling Effects of License-Plate Location Tracking

The Chilling Effects of License-Plate Location Tracking

By Mica Moore, ACLU & Bennett Stein, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 12:12pm

Location tracking has far-reaching implications for the way we live, even if we don't think we've done anything wrong. Our recent report, "You Are Being Tracked," shows that automatic license plate readers allow law enforcement to track every car on…

Use of Automated License Plate Readers Expanding in Northern California, and Data is Shared With Feds

Use of Automated License Plate Readers Expanding in Northern California, and Data is Shared With Feds

By Matthew Cagle, Volunteer Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 10:51am

The feeling of freedom that comes from driving down California’s sunny open roads is at risk—and rising gas prices are not to blame. Our investigations show that at least twenty Northern California law enforcement entities as well as the California…

"Limited Only by the Imagination": The Need for Legal Limits on License Plate Reader Use

"Limited Only by the Imagination": The Need for Legal Limits on License Plate Reader Use

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 10:13am

If you've been following our work on license plate readers, by now you know that if you're driving, your license plate is likely being photographed...

State secrecy and opaque funding programs cloud public's understanding of federal grants for surveillance gear

State secrecy and opaque funding programs cloud public's understanding of federal grants for surveillance gear

By Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project at 2:54pm

In the summer of 2012, the national ACLU and 38 affiliates submitted public records requests to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to learn about how they are engaging with license plate readers—powerful cameras that, used without…

Police Documents on License Plate Scanners Reveal Mass Tracking

Police Documents on License Plate Scanners Reveal Mass Tracking

By Catherine Crump, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 10:01am

Automatic license plate readers are the most widespread location tracking technology you’ve probably never heard of. Mounted on patrol cars or stationary objects like bridges, they snap photos of every passing car, recording their plate numbers,…

Report: 85 Percent Of Law Enforcement Agencies Will Have License Plate Readers Within The Next Five Years

Report: 85 Percent Of Law Enforcement Agencies Will Have License Plate Readers Within The Next Five Years

By Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project at 12:58pm

Automatic license plate readers don’t pose much of a threat to our privacy if there aren’t very many of them. Like surveillance cameras, they really only become a problem when the data they collect are situated in a broader context of pervasive…

Police “Google Searches” Through Our Location History? No Thanks

Police “Google Searches” Through Our Location History? No Thanks

By Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project at 3:24pm

Imagine a searchable database that would enable police or federal agents to instantly track everywhere you’ve ever driven in your car, like a “Google search” of your location over a period of months or even years. According to a law enforcement…

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (10/5/12)

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (10/5/12)

By Anna Salem, ACLU of Northern California at 3:50pm

In the digital age that we live in today, we are constantly exposing our personal information online. From using cell phones and GPS devices to online shopping and sending e-mail, the things we do and say online leave behind ever-growing trails of…

Statistics image