© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

ACLU Suggests Legislative Check On License Plate Data Collected By Police

Flickr user Steven Perez (silas216)

An open records analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union released a few weeks ago shows that multiple Texas police departments are using license plate readers to capture and store information on the traveling patterns of everyday drivers.

Automatic license-plate readers are cameras mounted on police patrol cars, road signs and bridges that scan car license plates and check to see if there are any violations on record. According to Tom Hargis with the ACLU of Texas, many police departments in the state are keeping that data beyond the initial scan for years at a time.

"I think that the primary concern on the privacy front is that by tracking your license plate over a series of months and years, police departments can learn a lot about you," Hargis said.

Hargis said this information policy crosses the line regarding Fourth Amendment rights.
The ACLU report also provides recommendations for police departments on how to utilize these license plate scanners.

"What the report recommends is that police departments implement certain limits and regulations on how long this captured license plate data can be retained," he said. "I mean, it’s pretty simple. There’s no reason that this data should be retained after your license plate has been checked."

Hargis said they will use those recommendations as the background for a bill they are hoping to have filed during the 2015 legislative session.

"The State of Texas should consider passing something that would require limits and regulations on how data is being used -- [data] that’s being collected and retained on thousands and millions of innocent Texans," he said.

Hargis said Texas law has not kept up with the rapid development in surveillance technology.