Generally, a tension is noticed between the law enforcement’s use of novel technologies for gathering information, which might help to hold the lawbreakers accountable, and the civil liberties of the residents they protect.
FREMONT, CA: According to a report by the state auditor, the California police agencies are leveraging the automated license plate reading technologies, but are lagging behind in the efforts of protecting the privacy of those affected. Referring to the report, California police agencies are specifically using automated license plate reader (ALPR) cameras, which is mounted in stationary objects as well as police vehicles. The law enforcement utilizes novel technologies to gather information on not only those who have done wrong but also those who routinely find themselves swept up in overly broad data collection and retention efforts.
With the help of ALPR cameras, the software extracts the license plates which are captured by the cameras, which saves the information along with the data on dates and locations and are automatically matched with the list of vehicles that the law enforcement is interested in.
The civil liberties advocates that such data should be handled with care, if the management is weak, then it could allow those with such information to track the location and movements of anyone who passes from the pathway with ALPR cameras.
To evaluate the safety measures adopted in using and handling the technology by the law enforcement agencies in practice, the auditor has reviewed four local agencies which are, Los Angeles Police Department, Fresno Police Department, Marin County Sheriff’s Office, and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office. As these matters are seldom scrutinized thoroughly, surprisingly, the auditor observed that the handling and retention of ALPR images and related data had not followed the practices which took into account an individual’s privacy. Overall it was brought into light by the auditor that the agencies have left their systems to be exploited by neglecting to institute adequate oversight.
The auditor has come up with few tweaks in the system to mitigate the problems, which include actions that can be taken by the Legislature and local agencies. At the state level, the auditor recommends that the state Department of Justice can take steps of drafting and making policy template local agencies can use to model their ALPR policies public. Additionally, the local agencies will not have to wait and can develop or reevaluate their ALPR policies and ensure responsible data handling.