Privacy Concerns Abound With License Plate Reader Technology

Posted on July 18, 2013

Law enforcement officials have begun to use license plate reader systems as a means to identify those automobiles that may have been involved in a crime.  But the implications of this technology have begun to worry privacy advocates.

Once a license plate has been recorded, information about it goes into a database that acts as a sort of repository of a driver’s location over a given period of time.  Troublesome is the fact that there are little to no restrictions on the length of time the data is stored and who it’s shared with.  And many times, law enforcement is buying this information from third party companies.

While retention can be as low as two days (as it is with the Minnesota State Patrol), places like Yonkers, New York and certain areas of Texas can maintain the data indefinitely.  And Los Angeles County drivers can see their location information placed into a database for as much as two years.

What frustrates many is the fact that the data is largely made up of innocent people.  In Maryland, for instance, it’s though that only .2% of the 29 million reads brought back an association with a crime or a registration problem of some sort.

Here’s a breakdown on how long various department keep the information:

Less than 30 days:

Deerpark, NY, Jacksonville, NC, Burbank, IL, and Minnesota State Patrol

Up to a year:

Boston, MA, Raleigh, NC, Sugar Land, TX, and more

Up to five years:

LA County, Aurora, CO, New Jersey, and more


Mesquite, TX, Yonkers, NY, and Grapevine, TX

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