Is this City Monitoring Me?
In Coral Gables, Florida, a judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit over the city’s use of automated license plate readers to scan license plates. This technology has faced a number of lawsuits over concerns about the collection and storage of data. The Coral Gables lawsuit stemmed from a Miami suburb resident who filed a request with the city to see what information it had on her movements. That resident discovered that the city had over 80 pages of documents and images showing him at various locations around town.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says that this technology is concerning because its feeding data about individuals into gigantic databases filled with billions of private details about those individuals’ movements, associations and patterns of life. Further, those databases do not have strong safeguards for protecting that data, nor judicial oversight or retention limitations. With the rise in data breaches across the country, there is also a high risk for this data to end up in the wrong hands.
Many cities across the U.S. are using this automated license plate reader technology. In order to combat some of the inherent issues with this type of data collection, experts recommend that the cities and towns that install this technology be transparent with residents, limit the type of activity that will trigger alerts and data recordings, as well as only store the data for a short amount of time. For example, in Maryland, over a six-month period, these scanners scanned 29 million license plates but only 0.2 percent of them were flagged for illegal activity.
This may be the time to push for new laws related to automatic license plate readers or, at the very least, the databases that house this sensitive data.