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Bill Introduced in New York Senate Would Limit ALPRs, Help Block National License Plate Tracking Program

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 13, 2016) – A bill introduced in the New York Senate would put strict limitations on the use of automated license plate reader systems (ALPRs) by the state. Passage would also have a major impact on federal efforts to tap in to state and local systems to track millions of people for the crime of driving.

Sen. Brad Hoylman introduced Senate Bill 7245 (S7245) on April 11. It is the companion to Assembly Bill 5233 (A5233), introduced earlier this year. The legislation would limit law enforcement use of ALPRs to specific functions and would ban law enforcement in the state from using them as a general location-tracking tool. The bill also prohibits sharing of legitimately-obtained license plate data with outside sources. The legislation would require the destruction of legally gathered information within 180 days unless law enforcement obtains a warrant or an approved judicial preservation request.

The proposed law includes a blanket prohibition on the use of ALPRs by non-law enforcement agencies in most cases. It reads, in part:

It shall be unlawful for any business, individual, partnership, corporation, association, or state or local government non-law enforcement entity to use an automatic license plate reader system.

The prohibition on data sharing in the legislation would help block a nationwide, federal license-plate tracking program.

IMPACT ON FEDERAL PROGRAMS

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the federal government, via the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), has been tracking the location of millions of cars for nearly eight years, all without a warrant, or even public notice of the policy. The secret domestic intelligence-gathering program “scans and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists.”

Most of these tracking systems are operated by state and local law enforcement agencies, but are paid for by federal grant money. The DEA then taps into the local database and is able to track the whereabouts of millions of people – for the simple act of driving – without having to operate a huge network itself. In those few situations where ALPRs are operated by federal agencies, they’re generally done so with express approval of the legislature, and operational assistance from state or local law enforcement.

Since a majority of federal license plate tracking data comes from state and local law enforcement, passage of HB344 would be a big step towards blocking that program from continuing in Montana.

The ALPRs also known to capture photographs of vehicle occupants. An internal DEA memo obtained by the ACLU “stated clearly that the license plate program can provide ‘the requester’ with images that ‘may include vehicle license plate numbers (front and/or rear), photos of visible vehicle occupants [redacted] and a front and rear overall view of the vehicle.’”

With the FBI rolling out facial a nationwide recognition program last fall, and the federal government building biometric databases, the fact that the feds can potentially access stored photographs of drivers and passengers, along with detailed location data, magnifies the privacy concerns surrounding ALPRs.

The bill would allow ALPRs to be used for some situations, such as identifying vehicles with outstanding parking violations or a failure to register. But, even that data couldn’t be shared with outside sources, such as the DEA, for its location-tracking program.

Passage would represent a significant step towards ending the tracking of millions of people whose only crime is driving.

S7245 was assigned to the Senate Consumer Protection Committee, where it will need to pass by a majority vote before it can move forward.

ACTION ITEMS

In New York, take all the steps to support this bill at THIS LINK

All other states, start at this link.