Poor dears. A bunch of law enforcement associations are worried that they won't be able to keep all that sweet, sweet ALPR (automatic license plate reader) data for as long as they want to. In fact, they're so worried, they've issued a letter in response to a nonexistent legislative threat.
Despite the fact that no federal license plate legislation has been proposed, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has sent a pre-emptive letter to top Congressional lawmakers, warning them against any future restrictions of automated license plate readers. The IACP claims to be the "world's oldest and largest association of law enforcement executives."
is stained with the tears of law enforcement entities whose thirst for bulk collections is only rivaled by national security agencies.
We are deeply concerned about efforts to portray automated license plate recognition (ALPR) technology as a national real-time tracking capability for law enforcement. The fact is that this technology and the data it generates is not used to track people in real time. ALPR is used every day to generate investigative leads that help law enforcement solve murders, rapes, and serial property crimes, recover abducted children, detect drug and human trafficking rings, find stolen vehicles, apprehend violent criminal alien fugitives, and support terrorism investigations.
The "efforts to portray" ALPRs as ad hoc tracking devices aren't limited to imaginative conspiracy theorists. Millions of plate scans are added to private companies' databases every day
. The total number of records retained by Vigilant, the most prominent manufacturer of ALPRs, totals in the billions
. That amount of data can easily be used to track nearly anyone's day-to-day movements. And the database is accessible by law enforcement agencies around the nation. There's no geofencing keeping the data compartmentalized to what's "relevant" to local agencies.
As for the rest of the paragraph, those claims have yet to be backed up by arrest statistics. The amount of plate data collected far outweighs the results
There is a misconception of continuous government tracking of individuals using ALPR information. This has led to attempts to curtail law enforcement’s use of the technology without a proper and fair effort to truly understand the anonymous nature of the data, how it is used, and how it is protected.
Note how the "misconception" is nothing privacy advocates are actually saying. No one's mistaking plate scans for a GPS tracking device. They've just noted that the end result is nearly identical. Gather enough data and you don't need a more "intrusive" method.
We are seeing harmful proposals – appropriations amendments and legislation – to restrict or completely ban law enforcement’s use of ALPR technology and data without any effort to truly understand the issue. Yet, any review would make clear that the value of this technology is beyond question, and that protections against mis-use of the data by law enforcement are already in place. That is one of the reasons why critics are hard-pressed to identify any actual instances of mis-use.
Translation: no one understands this high-tech device but us cops.
Also: "value" is "beyond question?" If so, why is it so hard to get any law enforcement agency to produce some evidence
to back up this claim? It's high tech, but it's also fallible tech
. And it's tech that is being deployed with little to nothing in the way of privacy protections or oversight.
That's what legislators (non-federal) are seeking. Some sort of limits and accountability. Virginia just passed one of the most restrictive pieces of legislation
pertaining to ALPRs -- one that installs limits on collection and retention.
Virginia has become the first state in America to impose a very short data retention limit on the use of automated license plate readers (LPRs, or ALPRs). VA cops will now only be able to keep such data for seven days unless there is an active, ongoing criminal investigation.
Only a few states have imposed any legislative limits on the technology. For most US law enforcement agencies, the data is gathered en masse (and sometimes in inappropriate places
) and held forever. The LAPD argued that every one
of the thousands of plate scans it had gathered is somehow "relevant" to ongoing investigations. When you're faced with claims like that, it's hard to argue with legislative limits being introduced. The police won't police themselves. Someone usually has to force them into applying even the most minimal of restrictions on ALPR use.
We call on Congress to foster a reasonable and transparent discussion about ALPR.
That's rich. "Transparent discussion." The hell does that even mean in a law enforcement context? Agencies don't want to talk about ALPRs
, Stingray devices
, their officers' misconduct
, etc. The prevailing law enforcement mentality is almost completely opposed to transparency. These police associations aren't interested in Congress or anyone else having a "transparent discussion." What they want is a guided
discussion that results in more data-hauling business as usual for the agencies these associations represent.
But this sentence is the best thing about this overwrought letter:
If legislative efforts to curtail ALPR use are successful, federal, state, and local law enforcement’s ability to investigate crimes will be significantly impacted given the extensive use of the technology today.
Shorter police: "We like our shiny tech tools so much, we've forgotten how to perform police work." If they can't get as much as they can, as often as they can and access it at their leisure, the streets will run red with the blood of the innocent. This sort of thinking goes all the way to the top, where the FBI's James Comey has promised
death, molestation and Colombia 2.0 if the government isn't allowed to build itself backdoors in cellphone encryption.
How a device that delivers a 0.2% hit rate has become something the cops lean on so heavily they simply can't go on without it is a question that deserves a "transparent" answer, rather than the hitch-in-the-throat talking points delivered here. All anyone wants is something telling cops they can't keep everything
for as long as they want
. They want privacy impact assessments and honest answers to worrying questions. All we've received so far is unproven claims of the tech's "effectiveness" and the constant pimping of dead children and human trafficking victims, with the existential threat of suppliers delivering product to a receptive market thrown in for good measure.