This is pretty alarming
Police in Minnesota and across the country are increasingly using small car-mounted cameras to scan thousands of license plates and pinpoint — in real time — stolen vehicles, suspended drivers and criminals.
Those same cameras also record the time, date and location of every car they see and store the information. That disturbs privacy advocates, who want more details about the cameras and are calling for standards to govern how police classify and retain plate-reader data.
Without a state law, departments in Minnesota are free to set their own policies on how long they keep the information.The State Patrol deletes location data after 48 hours, St. Paul police erase it in 14 days and Minneapolis retains it for a year.
Minneapolis cops captured data on 805,000 license plates in June alone, and 4.9 million so far this year. When a Star Tribune reporter requested data on his own license plate under Minnesota’s open records law, the Minneapolis Police Department responded with a list of dates, times and coordinates of his car that illustrated his daily routine.
Over the course of a year, cameras in squad cars logged him heading to work on W. Franklin Avenue at 8:07 a.m. one day, returning home on Portland Avenue S. at 6:17 p.m. on another, and parking three times late at night outside a friend’s house in Uptown. Police had captured the car’s license plate seven times.
“The technology that would make ‘1984’ possible in real life exists now,” said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota ACLU, which recently joined 35 of its affiliates nationwide to file data requests on how local agencies use the technology. “But the infrastructure to protect individuals’ privacies and rights doesn’t exist, particularly on the legislative and the judicial side.”
So who has access to your location data? Anyone who asks for it, according to Bob Sykora, chief information officer for the Minnesota Board of Public Defense. Sykora warned in a memo this June that location data retained by police is currently public. That means it could be obtained via record requests by data miners or other members of the public, he wrote, enabling burglars to learn someone’s daily routine or ex-spouses to track former partners…