The Privacy Issues of License Plate Recognition Data
You may have noticed cameras on the roadways of Pennsylvania collecting license plate numbers. As you drive along the roadway, your license plate number and your presence will be recorded whether you are involved in a high-speed police chase or dutifully stopping at every red light. Most people don’t think twice about these cameras, but what is all this data really used for?
The purpose of the cameras is to feed the numbers into license plate recognition software and flag any plates associated with criminal activity. This could be as minor as recording you running a red light, but the majority of the software focuses on identifying the plates of stolen cars or those associated with fugitives. While catching these criminals may be great, for every criminal recorded by the cameras for the license plate recognition software, there are hundreds of thousands of innocent people recorded.
This data is kept for about five years until it is recorded over, raising some real privacy concerns. The proliferation of these cameras throughout Pittsburgh and other cities allow most cars to be followed through any path they may choose. According to the ACLU, this data collection essentially allows law enforcement to track where you are at all times. These sentiments are even echoed by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. According to Zappala, “If you come into the city and commit a crime, they will find you.” Although this may be a comforting thought if you are concerned about major crimes, it can be chilling if you consider that any person could eventually be under suspicion and tracked easily with this software.
What The Privacy Issues of License Plate Cameras Mean for Pittsburgh
The license plate cameras may be well-intended, but they are ripe for abuse without proper legislation. The ACLU recommends that at the very least, the data on innocent be held for fewer than 30 days. This would allow policing of roadways to continue, but minimize the impact on those not flagged by the license plate recognition software.
The enormous (and growing) database of motorists’ movements within Pennsylvania already has sparked concerns about privacy within organizations across the state. A real discussion needs to be had weighing privacy concerns with policing needs. Proper Pittsburgh legislation will be necessary, as well.
In the meantime, Pittsburgh citizens should be aware of the cameras and make their concerns public. If you have been caught and arrested due to this kind of software, you need to be aware of all your rights. Call the Pittsburgh defense lawyers Michael Worgul and Samir Sarna today at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we will aggressively defend your rights and your privacy.