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US Cops Can't Keep License Plate Data Scans Secret Without Reason, Court Rules (theregister.co.uk) 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: Police departments cannot categorically deny access to data collected through automated license plate readers, California's Supreme Court said on Thursday -- a ruling that may help privacy advocates monitor government data practices. The ACLU Foundation of Southern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation sought to obtain some of this data in 2012 from the Los Angeles Police Department and Sheriff's Department, but the agencies refused, on the basis that investigatory data is exempt from disclosure laws. So the following year, the two advocacy groups sued, hoping to understand more about how this data hoard is handled. The LAPD, according to court documents, collects data from 1.2 million vehicles per week and retains that data for five years. The LASD captures data from 1.7 to 1.8 million vehicles per week, which it retains for two years. The ACLU contends [PDF] that indiscriminate license plate data harvesting presents a risk to civil liberties and privacy. It argues that constant monitoring has the potential to chill rights of free speech and association and that databases of license plate numbers invite institutional abuse, not to mention security risks.
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US Cops Can't Keep License Plate Data Scans Secret Without Reason, Court Rules

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  • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Saturday September 02, 2017 @09:03AM (#55128215)
    I do have a problem with them keeping that data for years. IMHO, a day or two at most should be sufficient .
    • I'd say a bit longer than that- maybe a week, but no longer than a month- say someone has their car stolen from their home and don't discover it until they come back from a vacation- it would be nice to be able to track it down.

      What I really want to know is what they are truly doing with the data and the contribution to solving crime and public safety.

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        Some people go abroad for six month contracts. Leave their home exactly as it is with the car in the driveway. An individual should have the right to say whether they want their data retained or not. But then anyone who refuses to have their data retained is then a suspect.

        • 6 months is an edge case which is effectively a logic fallacy.

          The points of WHY to keep the data need to be determined first. If its for tickets then delete it after review (except for the offender until after court). If its for something else then that something else first needs defined and why it benefits society.

      • What I really want to know is what they are truly doing with the data and the contribution to solving crime and public safety.

        That's the crux of the problem. I'm OK with them collecting the data. I'm even OK with them holding it for a few months (2-5 years seems excessive). What I'm not OK with is them (or the public) being able to access the database willy nilly to look up any license plate they want. The system should be behind lock and key, and require a warrant before they can search for a specific

      • Just because something is nice to have, that doesnt mean its right to have.
      • A friend in Missouri had an old Camaro stolen - almost certainly for a joy ride because it was old. He thought he'd get it back quickly because they are usually abandoned at the side of the road afterwards. He checked with the police several times to see if they had recovered it to which they responded in the negative. A few months later, he went ahead and bought a new car.

        Nearly a year after the car was stolen, the police impound contacted him asking if he was the owner of a car they had. It was his car. I

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 02, 2017 @09:22AM (#55128267)

    Thanks to this ruling, the data can be accessed by any company wiling to fill out the proper forms. This is the information age and data can be bought and sold. Quickly you will find big data finding some use fo this data. If only to allow anyone to search your license plate and find out where you've been in the last 6 months. (your spouse, your stalker, etc). That sort of process is a good way to collect marketing data, as you can quickly associate a Google or Apple account once the sucker installs an app to access your stupid website.

    • by ebyrob ( 165903 )

      Truly scary, anyone who wants to dig knowing where every single person's car is every day?! Far better if just the police know, even if they can't be trusted to be responsible with it (by deleting after a month).

      Next up, allowing private citizens and corporations to do license plate look-ups to see who the owner is. (or further get facial recognition data to see who's actually driving).

      Of course, this data is pretty much already available via phone GPS.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 02, 2017 @09:35AM (#55128303)

    Does this mean I can request data on the whereabouts of my wife and the government has to help me? She hasn't had a good beating in ages.

  • How are they going to enforce this? The only way to catch them is through illegal hacking or sloppy handling of the data.

  • If the government has data I feel as if i should have access to that data. After all, the public pays for that data to be collected. And yes, I can see how that data could easily be misused to plan or commit crimes. On the other hand maybe i need to know where my teenage kids go or perhaps a wife might be straying. My neighbor may seem a bit off and i may want to see where he goes and if he really works at the job he claims to do. I even question whether anyone has a legitimate reason to have any sec
    • My thoughts are

      1 Allow collection of data (they are going to anyway)
      2 cycle detailed data off the "hot servers" after 6 months but keep Make/Model/Color level data
      3 drop ALL DATA into a cold server after 2 years (thaw out data only on a three judge signed court order)
      4 ANY crimes get performed using the data then the data techs get charged with aiding and abetting

      5 Civil suits resulting on the data getting misused have an automatic 3X multiplier

    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      I would argue its a sick state of affairs anyone needs "on the books income" there should be no income recording. We only need consumptive side taxes and most government functions like waste pickup should simply be fee for service. The federal government should stick to its constitutional mandates. Its total budget should probably not be greater than and of the higher population states (which will grow to do a lot of what the feds are doing now).

      The federal government should have no power to tax individ

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      If the government has data I feel as if i should have access to that data.

      Perfect. Let's just make salary data available so that everyone can know what everyone else makes, and watch as jealousy consumes the nation. And now that we can get those fingerprints from the DMV database, we can crack everybody's cell phone trivially. Awesome! Oh, and the government knows what church you donate money to, so that makes religious discrimination much easier and much harder to detect.

      Need I continue to list data th

  • This is an unexpected and far-reaching ruling, potentially out-lawing automated licence-plate readers: there is a California law (like in many complex states) that forbids accessing the registration database without valid specific reason (investigation, lawsuit). Basically because cops were picking up women. To justify scanners, LAPD said they were investigating the whole city, but that has now been overturned.

    Now that "investigating everything" has been tossed, a number of cases that started from this d

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      LAPD said they were investigating the whole city

      Yah, those beady windows and sloping roads look suspicious.

  • We need to focus on the real privacy issues. The US government is collecting our PII in areas where there *is* an expectation of privacy; on our own computers, telephones, and routers (see Snowden, et al). Allowing everyone to have access to the data from public roadways is better than only law enforcement (see The Transparent Society, David Brin). Even without LPR, that ship had sailed anyway (see toll transponders).

  • If you can keep track of your political opponent, how will our government function?

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