CA License Plate Reading Doesn’t Protect Privacy: Audit

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The Los Angeles Police Department and three other California law enforcement agencies have not provided enough privacy protections for the hundreds of millions of images collected by automated license plate readers and shared with other jurisdictions, the state auditor said Thursday. Most images collected by the devices are unrelated to criminal cases. The audit found that 99.9 percent of the 320 million images the LAPD stored came from vehicles that were not on a list of those involved in criminal investigations when the image was made by the automated license plate readers (ALPR), the Los Angeles Times reports. State Auditor Elaine Howle said changes were needed to better safeguard the privacy of license plate data collected by the Fresno Police Department, Marin County Sheriff’s Office, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office and LAPD.

State Sen. Scott Wiener said he was “horrified” by the scale of the ALPR program and by  “the fact that we have so many law enforcement agencies that are not complying with state law, including LAPD.” Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said his agency had “the utmost respect for individuals’ privacy and currently has policies and procedures in place to safeguard personal information” but that the department was taking additional steps to address the auditor’s concerns. The automated camera systems mounted on street light poles and patrol cars collect and store license plate images of vehicles passing in their view and enable law enforcement to track a vehicle’s movements over time. The images are compared with a list of vehicles of interest, including stolen cars and those used in crimes, and officers are alerted in real time to their location. See also: Police Use of Artificial Intelligence Poses ‘Alarming’ Threats to Privacy.

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