The ACLU has launched a nationwide campaign to determine how law enforcement agencies are using data collected from automatic license plate readers, which are proliferating coast to coast. The group said license readers “are fundamentally threatening our freedom on the open road.” It said the readers can photograph up to three thousand plates per minute. The data becomes a record of who was where and when.
The ACLU said it doesn’t have a comprehensive sense of how this technology is being implemented nationwide. But it said license plate tracking is a growing big business. As with so many other cutting-edge surveillance and identification tools, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and even the Department of Transportation have dished out many millions of dollars to state and local law enforcement for the purchase of the readers, which now cost about $12,000 per unit. The DEA plans to install a network of plate readers on major highway systems nationwide. The Department of Homeland Security clocks every car that enters the country. Local and state police departments operate thousands of the systems. Only New Hampshire and Maine have statutes to regulate their use.