Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Email to Minnesota Criminal Justice Policy Group on License Plate Cameras

This is an email which I sent to some members of the Minnesota Criminal Justice and Juvenile Justice Information Policy Group about their vote which they will hold on December 12, 2012 in regards to License Plate Scans.  Some may not get it because access to their email address is hard to come by.

"I have been a long time member of the Minnesota Criminal Justice and Juvenile Justice Information Task Force since it's inception.  Recently the Task Force took on the issue of Automatic License Plate Recognition(ALPR).  During the first discussion of the topic I voted no, because I think it is important for the task force to be true to it's mission as I view it and give the Policy Group the "full scoop" on what ALPR's can do, what reasons why law enforcement should be collecting this data, how will it be integrated in the criminal information system, and other related issues.  I do not believe it lived up to that expectation.  At that first meeting I and the representative of the Attorney General were the only ones that voted no.

Granted there was a working group organized to discuss the retention issue, but the decision was already made to make the license plate scan data private.  I was of the belief that the working group of the task force was not going to entertain other issues related to Automatic License Plate Recognition, which was the case.  On November 9th, 2012 the Task Force voted on the report from the work group recommending 180 day retention and the data be classified as private. I could not be at the meeting, but I stated to Dana Gotz for the record to mark me as a NO vote.

A basic rationale to have ALPR, for example is, car plates caught by cameras may be checked with known plates of a stolen car.  A “hit” could happen which then lets the police know the car may be stolen.  Law enforcement may take appropriate action.  But my concern is the collection of millions of innocent law abiding people's travels and movement which could be termed "non hits".

It has been my experience with my long and active interaction with Minnesota law enforcement on civil liberty and information issues the cops will find many uses for this kind of data which even you, the Policy Group, or the public may not even be aware of.  Even in the literature given to law enforcement as a guide/manual it is suggested the license plate data can be used to data mine for patterns and to link to databases.  A manual which I obtained about ALPR's directs law enforcement about using this new "toy" for Geo Fencing, pattern recognition, watch list development, and the broad category of "Homeland Security".

Should we routinely track innocent motorists in this way? The broader question is: Should law enforcement agencies of Minnesota collect and retain movements of law abiding and innocent people?  My answer is clear, it's no.
Bottom line, Minnesota law enforcement agencies who have the readers can track, record and store data on people on our streets, regardless of whether individuals are suspected of any crimes or not. Whether or not it is narrowed to only the "hits" to people suspected of crime is a decision that begins with the Policy Group."

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