Licence plate readers that scan plates and store information about a car’s whereabouts are a violation of privacy and state law, according to a lawsuit filed in Virginia.
Wired reports that Harrison Neal is the first person to file a lawsuit over the use of automatic licence plate readers. The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of Neal after learning that Fairfax Police harvested his licence plate twice over the past year and stored the information in a database. For no reason at all. What gives?
The tracking isn’t just creepy surveillance — it’s also illegal. Back in 2013, the Virginia Attorney General said that licence plate data should only be stored in the case of an on-going investigation. According to Raw Story, Virgina State police purged their databases following that decision, but the counties apparently think that the state’s most senior lawyer is wrong.
Licence plate readers have legal and legitimate uses, but as the EFF notes, they’re seriously problematic technology. Your whereabouts can be used to infer all sorts of private information about your life that the government has no business knowing — like what your favourite bar is. Simply put, it’s unjustified surveillance. The government can’t track and follow you around unless it can explicitly explain why it needs to.