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Data bills won't move foward as time runs out

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: May 20, 2013 - 4:37 PM

Despite momentum in the House last week, a bill imposing restrictions on police use of controversial license plate tracking technology will not become law this year.

The bill was on tap for a vote in the Senate this weekend, but Senate author Scott Dibble said it was scuttled because of disagreements concerning the retention of location data on innocent people. Monday is the last day of the legislative session.

Dibble said another bill, which would have forced local governments to be more transparent about data breaches, is also dead for the time being. That follows a year in which misuse of the state's drivers license database made consistent headlines. The two bills were combined in the House.

Law enforcement lobbying groups fought hard to keep the license plate reader data for as long as possible, which they are now free to do until the state passes limitations. The Senate bill would have let them keep it for 90 days, while the House bill barred any retention of data on non-criminals.

The House defeated a measure to extend the retention time to 180 days. When Dibble told the law enforcement groups that the final bill could go below 90 days, he said they pushed for no bill at all.

"Because then they get to hang on to it forever, there [are] no standards," Dibble said. "So I guess they get what they want at least for the year.”

The legislation would have been the state's first regulation of license plate readers -- tiny devices mounted on squad cars  that scan plates and help police catch criminals in real time.

The Star Tribune revealed in August, however, that police were also storing massive amounts of sensitive location data on innocent people. Furthermore, anyone could request someone else's location data until a state agency temporarily reclassified it.

Law enforcement groups say that historical data is important because it helps them solve crimes by combing the past whereabouts of suspects who materialize after an incident has occurred.

Dibble plans to push forward on both bills next session, which begins in 2014.

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