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Panel supports non-public license plate data

  • Blog Post by: Eric Roper
  • December 12, 2012 - 4:33 PM

A statewide panel endorsed a plan Wednesday that would reclassify license plate tracking data held by local police as non-public information.

The proposed change would apply to data collected by license plate scanners, frequently mounted on squad cars, which look out for wanted vehicles and track the time and location of every plate they see. That data is currently public, meaning members of the public can learn about other people's movements using an open records request.

The Criminal and Juvenile Justice Information Policy Group -- made of state commissioners, judges, and other legal officials -- made the recommendation to the Legislature, which is expected to address the issue next session.

The panel did not, however, follow a suggestion from its task force (which has a different membership) to limit data retention to 180 days. Right now, each local agency is free to keep the data for however long they choose.

Privacy advocate Rich Neumeister, a citizen representative on the task force, has questioned why police should be able to keep the data at all if there is no "hit." Police say they need it for investigative purposes.

Classifying the data as private means only the owner of each license plate can request his own data.

"The problem with this data [is] it has -- to my mind -- some of the highest potential for misuse [than] about any kind of data we keep," said Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson. "And if this data is out there public, just think about ...a stalker...divorce cases." 

It's still possible the Legislature will seek mandatory retention times. That will be up to legislators and the governor.

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