ACLU Of Texas Seeks Details From State Agencies And Local Police On Automatic License Plate Readers
Information Sought On How Cameras Are Used By Police Agencies And How Data Is Stored
HOUSTON – The ACLU of Texas today joined with American Civil Liberties Union affiliates in 38 states sending requests to local police departments and state agencies that demand information on how they use automatic license plate readers (ALPR) to track and record drivers’ movements.
The ACLU of Texas submitted requests to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, and to the Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, and El Paso police departments.
“Tracking and recording people’s movements raises serious privacy concerns. Where we go can reveal a great deal about us, including visits to doctor’s offices, political meetings, and friends. Without probable cause, that’s none of the government’s business,” said Terri Burke, Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas. “Texans deserve to know how this information is being used and we need legal protections to limit the collection, retention and sharing of our travel information.”
In addition, the ACLU and the ACLU of Texas filed federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Transportation to learn how the federal government funds ALPR expansion nationwide and uses the technology.
ALPRs are cameras mounted on patrol cars or on stationary objects along roads – such as telephone poles or the underside of bridges – that snap a photograph of every license plate that enters their fields of view. Typically, each photo is time, date, and GPS-stamped, stored, and sent to a database, which provides an alert to a patrol officer whenever a match or “hit” appears.
“Automatic license plate readers make it possible for the police to track our location whenever we drive our cars and to store that information forever,” said Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project. “The American people have a right to know whether our police departments are using these tools in a limited and responsible manner, or whether they are keeping records of our movements for months or years for no good reason.”
More information about the requests is available at: aclu.org/plates