Posted in the Fitchburg Forum
License plate readers draw ACLU lawsuit
By Michael Hartwell, mhartwell@sentinelandenterpris e.comsenlandenterprise.com
Posted: 09/30/2012 06:35:00 AM EDT
SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / BRETT CRAWFORD One of the automatic license plate readers is seen on Fitchburg Police Traffic Specialist Paul McNamara's cruiser as he talks about the technology, seen reflected on his car. FITCHBURG -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts says electronic license plate readers are a potential "Big Brother" intrusion by government in people's lives, but local police counter that the devices, when used properly, keep the public safer.
The ACLU of Massachusetts filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday hoping to spark a public discussion about how long the government should be allowed to keep databases tracking the whereabouts of the public obtained from the readers.
The lawsuit, filed against the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, seeks records obtained from automatic license plate readers. The suit is part of a coordinated project between 39 ACLU affiliates across the nation and the civil rights group's largest records request in history.
Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty project at the ACLU of Massachusetts, said the devices are mounted on police cruisers or stationary objects to scan and record the locations of vehicles as they pass. She said the ACLU has no problem with the devices themselves, because they can be used to find stolen cars or drivers with expired registrations or outstanding warrants.
"The problem is when people begin collecting all kinds of revealing information about all kinds of people who haven't done anything wrong ... simply because it might be useful in the future," said Crockford.
The devices use a laser to read license plates similar to how cashiers
scan bar codes. They also record detailed coordinates of where the reader spotted the vehicle. When that information is stored, Crockford said, it can create a profile of a person based on where they visit, shop, worship or seek medical treatment.
"There is a balance that needs to be struck with the legitimate uses and deployments of the tools," Crockford said.
She said the biggest issue is the length of time the data are kept on file. She said there should be a public debate by the American public about what is an appropriate amount of time, but instead the issue is being decided by the police departments.
"There needs to be a democratic process." said Crockford.
She said the cost for the technology is falling rapidly and currently costs about $10,000 for a unit. She said in 10 years there will probably be one on every police cruiser.
"By the time we get to that point, if we haven't instituted the right privacy policies we're going to be in real trouble," she said.
Terrel Harris, communications director for the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, said he's not aware of any official list of which police departments in the state have the readers. He said the state gave $284,000 in grants to police departments in 2011 to purchase them.
Harris said a data-retention policy is being developed by the state, but details will not be made public until it is completed.
"All stakeholders have weighed in," he said.
Crockford said in the vast majority of cases it's not known how long police agencies retain the plate data or who they share it with. In New Jersey the attorney general decided the data can be kept for up to five years. In Maine the limit is 21 days.
New Hampshire does not allow the readers on police cars. They can only be used to monitor specific structures named by the legislature, and the data are wiped out after 21 days.
Boston has a rule limiting it to 90 days, but Crockford said there's a simple process that lets them keep the data longer upon request.
"I think that's far too long," she said.
The ACLU pressured the Brookline Police Department to adopt an official policy, and that department chose 30 days.
"I think it's not ideal, but it's totally reasonable," said Crockford.
Fitchburg Police Traffic Specialist Paul McNamara said his department automatically deletes the data after 30 days out of necessity.
"We don't have the capacity to go more than 30 days," said McNamara. "That's a lot of data you would have to capture and keep.
McNamara drives one of two cars in the department's fleet with automatic license plate readers. The readers relay information to his onboard computer and alerts him when a problematic plate is detected.
Most suspects identified by the readers are uninsured drivers, according to McNamara. He said those drivers put the public at significant risk because of the financial damage they can do to other drivers in a crash, so it's a good tool to find them.
Recently in Fitchburg, police located a woman believed to be suicidal by triangulating her position using cellphone towers and data from the plate readers to narrow down an area to search, something they wouldn't have been able to do before.
The technology still has some bugs. McNamara said one of the vehicles in his department's fleet has the same plate number as a stolen car in California.
The reader doesn't detect what state the plate is from and gives a false alert every time he passes it. Road signs can also be mistaken for license plates by the readers, and there is a suspect plate in the system with the letters "DETOUR."
Still, "these have done more good than bad," McNamara said. He said he could see 90 days as a reasonable data-retention period if the department upgraded its storage capacity.
Lt. Tim Crowley supervises the traffic division of the Lowell Police Department. He said the fastest police officers can manually run 50 to 60 plates in an eight-hour shift while each of the department's two plate readers can check 2,500 to 3,000 plates.
Lowell keeps plate data for 90 days, and Crowley said that only includes the plate locations. Details like the vehicle owner's identity or suspected violations are in a separate national database, the Criminal Justice Information System.
Crowley said the department sees little advantage to keeping the data for more than three months and his department is also limited by storage capacity.
He said privacy concerns were not considered as a factor as the department does not share the data with anyone and only accesses it as part of an investigation.
Crockford said the ACLU thinks seven days is a more reasonable amount of time. She said most major crimes are discovered within that time period,
She said the ACLU believes that cases where the police would benefit from long-term data are rare and are outweighed by the privacy concerns related to keeping long term databases on the public.
Follow Michael Hartwell at facebook.com/michaelhartwell or twitter.com/sehartwell .
Read more: http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/local/ci...
So, no more need for probable cause? These allowances lead to many other intrusions.
Why not take DNA from every citizen? After all there justification was that violent offenders would be responsible for all the unsolved crimes. 20 years later and not even 1% solved!! But there was 300 released due to DNA as they served over 4000 yrs cummulative for crimes they didn't commit.
They could now justify taking everyones DNA under these stats alone. They can state just 1% committed these unsolved and in order to catch the other 99% we must take everyones DNA.
Just 2o years ago they wanted to put a microchip in every citizens hand so they could confirm citenzenship.
last week they had drones flying over American cities viewing and listening to all American households. They can see into everyones house and listen to everyone.
Ok, lets be honest; this license plate machine is cool and it assist in issueing tickets to struggling Americans. But it is illegal period!
Why stop here? They could state, hey their is a high percentage of black citizens that are convicted of crimes so they should all be treated as criminals!
I feel that the ACLU doesn't go far enough as they understand the courts. This system no matter how cool it is violates your rights.
All these laws give you the feeling that it is a dictatorship. It is now controlled freedom. It wasn't before and the citizens who drafted the Constitution wanted to protect the citizens from a powerful over reaching government.
Our politicians are to blame also as they allow all of it and sign off on it all! Can you believe that it was legal that politicians could legally recieve insider trading as they jailed citizens for the same behaviors?
This is why people do not vote as they see it as beyond repair.
I feel that African Americans are every Americans way toward regainning our freedoms within America.
Our Constitution is being completely violated as the high courts become political.
The haves and have nots are clearly changing to the wealthy desirables and the hard working undesirable Americans.
Wealth is becomming a moral compass. If you are Wealthy then you deserve respect. If you are poor or middleclass your life is to be hard work,taxes and death;period. No vacations, no respect for you are not wealthy.
"Money is the root of all evil".I see this more clearly now. If you are not wealthy then the Republicans do not want you to recieve health care.
If you are a hard working middle economic class American these Republicans do not want you to recieve cancer treatment if needed as only they feel that they deserve proper care.
After all they were able to dupe every hard working American into making Millions for them as they sit back. Romney calls this "free enterprise" and not "vulture capitalists"!!
The Republicans did not want to extend unemployment benefits! LMAO. They held this hostage until Obama agreed to extend the bush tax cuts for Americas super wealthy, you know the self righteous $50,000 a plate Romney pow wow dinner guest who feel better than!
"Free neterprise" does have a true meaning. It means that free markets define what the American dream stand for. The problem is that there is a modern version.
The more you screw hard working Americans, the more you outsource American jobs, the more you squeeze the middle class and divide the wealthy apart as the only deserving people. This is the modern "free enterprise" group. They would and have sold their own mothers' for wealth!
They don't feel fortunate, they feel deserving. They are born into wealth. They are the self righteous.
I remember as a kid. My father worked hard. We took vacations as a family. We ate dinner together. The air was clearer. Life was simpler. People talked to their neighbors. Neighbors borrowed sugar ect.. The era of the hand me downs.
Then comercial America took control.The self righteous didn't want you to be able to take vacations, the Republican party took hold.
They are obvious to everyone. They have support from similar minded self righteous people. They do not want you to be happy.They want to control when you go to the bathroom, where you park your cars after you pay them. They want it all. Millions is not enough, having everything they want is not enough, they must stop you from having anything. Only they want to be able to shop, only they want to own stores. Just look at the Businesses in fitchburg as it is happening here on a small scale.
The only way to bring America back where opportunity and hard work was available is to VOTE. Stop thinking that voting doesn't matter. At present only 18% of "REGISTERD" Americans vote. There is another 25% of "ELIGIBLE" Americans who are not even registered and they are not Republicans.
The Republicans are being put into office by less than 6% of the American people! This is fact and is appalling. This 6% earns dividends through the outsourcing and the lessening of job opportunities for you. They give each other pay raises.
If you vote then the politicians will represent your rights. You need to make a stance. Vote for Mickey Mouse, who cares, just vote and they will position for your support.
We must focus all our energy on voting! It takes two minutes to register to vote! It takes two minutes to vote.
We are not going to regain America by sitting back, we need to vote. Assist others to vote, bring your neighbors to vote. Get active, bring your nephews, nieces, cousins ,friends and neighbors.VOTE to save America.
Does anyone ever take the time to read all of his copy/paste and illiterate spew?
This guy isn't wrapped too tightly.
You will hear the double talkers out here. They claim to be Republicans, they believe in these cameras, they believe in the minni planes viewing and listening to you, they agree to you recieving fees and fines for non payment. They feel that you are living beyond your means.
They want to control it all! They fucked everything up. They shut down business that they didn't like, they don't like the clientele, they don't like the music. They want you to conform to what they want.
They feel that there is one way to think and to live. They feel that you are not deserving of what they recieved. Whether they recieved a job through a conncetion or was overpaid; thgey do not want you to have the same opportunities. Only they feel deserving! They are right.
They got a job, was overpaid and was able to save for retirement. These jobs are not available any longer, they do not pay the same, they support outsourcing of jobs! They earn dividends due to outsourcing!
The problem is they drained the system dry and now they need someone to blame and they are pointing the finger at you! You the undeserving 47% of all Americans!
Malls are empty but full in Romneys shopping circles. They feel that you do not deserve to shop as you are not worthy as them. They want coffee shops for just their little groups!
What they are finding out is that there little group does not support the economy in itself. In fact they support less than 5% of the American consumer spending.
We need a leader with guts! Let them kill us as we must continue to march forward. Romney respects the way of China! The crushing of the hard working people!!!
"Illiterate"? So what do you call what all these so called "smart/educated economists" are creating? Is outsourcing good for America?
You will say, "It is not right but it is what it is as it is a global economy now". It has been a "global economy" since the discovery of America as we traded hides for liquer ect...
I encourage you to read about New England history.This is where America began. This is what I understand. I am an American.
It is fact that a certain portion of Americas "wealthy" is to blame for Americas economic downfall. America is "we the people". Do you no longer understand "we the people"?
The RMV is a perfect example of the new America where "controlled freedom" is the rule. The new Constitution. "Undesireables need not apply.
You will remark on my spelling errors as I have been typing in the dark and my eyes are not good.
Now you will mke a comment about me being in my mothers' basement with no lights,ec...
You nevr have anything to add to the conversation but criticism of me.
You are so srt, what is your answer? Do you have a job? Do you work for the state or the city? Can't answer huh?
Do you tink empty Main street and empty malls are a good thing?
What is your solution? Should we cut food stamps, unemployment extensions,health care and welfare benefits??? Then what?????
Do you tink that tiswill btter the economy? Do you think tleast maybewe ca offer a gas chamber option to thosewho want to die starvng with some respect?
Should we bom the poor neighborhoods? In te past five years many other countries have resorted to this behavior.
Is your system working yet? Should we up the anti and have a second Bush tax cuts fo the walthy so they economy takes a second dive???
Do you ever wonder why the poor economy has mimicked the Bushtax cuts for the wealthy? Googe Dubai!! Then your eyes will open a bit.
Hold sign at a Romney evn tha sttes "do you support Dubai"? And watch his eyes catch your sign amoung all the rest.
Please, do not tell me what I don't know. I have followed Kellog and roote onto Halliburton. Tax shelters. The Republicans hiested American treasures through policies right in front of every American.
Americans need to stand up and vote!!!!!!
Plus my server is acting slow which is affecting the typing.
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