JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Dec. 6, 2016) – During the 2017 session, the Missouri legislature will consider a bill that would put limitations on the storage and sharing of information collected by law enforcement agencies using Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) in the state, and place significant roadblocks in the way of a federal program using states to help track the location of millions of everyday people through pictures of their license plates.
Sen. Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit) prefiled Senate Bill 85 (SB85) on Dec. 1. The legislation would require government entities to destroy any data captured by automatic license plate readers within 30 days unless they get a court issued preservation order or a warrant. Additionally, the proposed law would allow law enforcement agencies to preserve ALPR data longer than 30 days pursuant to a one year limited published law enforcement organization policy restricting data to detectives or system auditors after the initial 30 days.
SB85 would also limit sharing ALPR data with the federal government. The feds would be required to obtain a preservation request or a warrant in order to access Missouri license plate data unless exigent circumstances made the release of the data necessary.
The use of any data or evidence derived from automated license plate reader systems preserved in violation of the law could not be received into evidence in any proceeding.
Passage of SB85 would prevent the state from creating permanent databases using information collected by ALPRs, and would make it highly unlikely that such data would end up in federal databases.
IMPACT ON FEDERAL PROGRAMS
As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the federal government, via the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) tracks the location of millions of vehicles. They’ve engaged in this for over eight years, all without a warrant, or even public notice of the policy.
State and local law enforcement agencies operate most of these tracking systems, paid for by federal grant money. The DEA then taps into the local database to track the whereabouts of millions of people – for the simple act of driving – without having to operate a huge network itself.
Since a majority of federal license plate tracking data comes from state and local law enforcement, passage of SB85 would take a major step toward blocking that program from continuing in Missouri. The feds can’t access data that doesn’t exist.
“No data means no federal license plate tracking program,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.
Law enforcement generally configures ALPRs to store the photograph, the license plate number, and the date, time, and location of vehicles. But according to newly disclosed records obtained by the ACLU via a Freedom of Information Act request, the DEA is also captures photographs of drivers and their passengers.
According to the ACLU:
“One internal 2009 DEA communication 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.” Clearly showing that occupant photos are not an occasional, accidental byproduct of the technology, but one that is intentionally being cultivated, a 2011 email states that the DEA’s system has the ability to store “up to 10 photos per vehicle transaction including 4 occupant photos.”
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.
Passage of SB85 would represent a good first step toward putting a big dent in federal plans to continue location tracking, and expanding its facial recognition program. The less data the state makes available to the federal government, the less ability they have to track people in Missouri.