Privacy advocates in New Jersey are concerned about the increased use of cameras that can automatically read license plates, even though they've been successful in helping police catch criminals.
According to the Press of Atlantic City
, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is concerned the information collected through the automated license plate reader system along Sea Isle City Boulevard Bridge and in other locations around the state could be misused.
In an effort to determine if the reader systems are being used correctly and private information is being protected, the ACLU has submitted requests to examine the records of 21 police departments and other agencies around the state. The organization has filed hundreds of other similar requests as well across the country as the camera systems have grown more popular with law enforcement agencies.
“From a civil liberties perspective, we’re more concerned about how the information is kept, who has access to it, how long it is kept, things of that nature,” Thomas MacLeod, an ACLU Open Government Project fellow, told the Press.
According to state guidelines drawn up by former New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow in 2010, the license records should be thrown out after five years. The guidelines also call for a record to be kept detailing who accesses the data and for what purpose.
“It’s a very, very good tool when you deploy it right,” said Sea Isle City Police Lt. Kirk Rohrer, who told the Press he has used the system for several successful investigations.
Increasingly, however, the automated camera systems are being used as a so-called deterrent in an effort to actually stop crimes before they happen.
That worries the ACLU.
"It permits basically surveillance essentially for its own sake," MacLeod told the Press. "It's the type of thing that could conceivably be misused if someone with access to the information had an axe to grind with someone and they could track their movements."
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