Saturday, February 16, 2013

License plate readers, secrecy, and attitude

I finally got around in the past few days to read thoroughly the City of Minneapolis application to make secret all License Plate Reader (LPR) data with the Minnesota Department of Administration.  I find their tales and rationale to retain and keep the data private on innocent and law abiding people not compelling.  First of all, Minneapolis Police or any other law enforcement agency should NOT keep data like this on people without it being a criminal investigation or a "hit" such as a stolen car.

The second major point in my view is the essential question:  Are the use of LPR's to track, collect, store, and disseminate license plate data from all vehicles that pass these cameras in violation of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act?

The big thing that sticks in my craw is how that government can come up with new toys and equipment that use technology such as LPR's and place them on the streets or in use without the public involved in the discussion.  This is not new in my experience.

I stumbled across this kind of attitude nearly 25 years ago when I was told that law enforcement was using scanners to listen in on people's phone conversations.  This was in the era of the old radio/cordless phones.  Anyways, I found out about it and went to the Legislature. A law was passed to prohibit this action without a wiretap search warrant.

Another example, currently, a city may be in a big deal with a large private company to do data mining and analytics of it's citizens with not a lot of public discussion and more than likely not even knowing about it.  There are a number of issues on this one. That will be a future post.

So here we are again the public and Legislature, backtracking to the behavior of law enforcement and government building in some accountability, public scrutiny, and transparency.

Law enforcement and other government entities need to change their behavior. They need to be straight with the public when it involves our civil liberties and transparency/accountability of our government.

This so true with the incoming bills that will be heard in the next four weeks at the Legislature.  These are just some of them:

Traffic enforcement cameras known as speed, red light, and LPR cameras.

License Plate Readers, there are two bills. HF 488 and HF 474.

Regulation of government databases.


Now back to the LPR's and the Minneapolis application.  One thing that caught my attention on page 6 of the document is the use of the LPR data.  For example, the scans are to be matched with such watch lists as (BOLO) database. "Be on the Lookout".  Another example, is the "immigration violator files".  I was intrigued by this one so I did a public tweet to @MayorRTRybak asking him:

Do Minneapolis Police want to use License Plate scans to look for people who are undocumented people in your city?

I have not gotten an answer yet.

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