Washington ACLU Concerned by License Plate Data Collection

The organization believes that the system should only house data on stolen vehicles, should destroy data on other vehicles it sees and ensure that access to the data be highly restricted.

by Dee Riggs, The Wenatchee World / January 20, 2016

(TNS) — All data from the camera system being used by Wenatchee Police will be stored for one to two years, police say. That is a big concern for officials with the ACLU of Washington.

“The information they collect is sensitive and invasive,” said Jared Friend, director of the technology and liberty program with the ACLU in Seattle. “It may not be a critical piece of information if, say, it records you going to Starbucks but, if you take that into consideration with other places I go, it puts together a fairly intricate story of my life.”

Ideally, he said, the reader system would only save data on stolen vehicles but destroy data on other vehicles it sees. He also said that access to the data should be restricted to only law enforcement officials who need to see if. “It should be very, very highly controlled,” he said.

He said he thinks data should be deleted from the system after two weeks.

Capt. Doug Jones said the data, which includes all license plates scanned regardless of whether they are stolen, is subject to public records requests. The data also includes the location and time and date of license plate recordings.

“I suppose there is potential for abuse, such as if someone wanted to know where their ex-wife was, but we haven’t heard of problems like that,” he said.

A survey by the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that law enforcement agencies store the data for 30 days to three years, with most keeping it two years or less, said Capt. John Kruse.

©2016 The Wenatchee World (Wenatchee, Wash.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.