Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPRs) are a powerful surveillance tool increasingly being purchased and deployed across many communities and on expressways across Illinois. It is clear that for-profit manufacturers and operators of these cameras systems are aggressively marketing them to law enforcement and elected officials as a means of reducing violent crime.
While some observers question the claim of reducing crime, there is little doubt that these cameras systems require careful attention to address privacy concerns. But many communities are deploying these systems without appropriate privacy policies or practices for protecting personal information.
We know that if we know where someone travels, we know a lot about that person. It tells us something if someone goes to church, to a bar, or to a political meeting. So using this information carefully and creating appropriate safeguards is critical.
But it in too many communities there is a rush to purchase and deploy these camera systems without appropriate privacy policies. If your community is considering a camera system, please read the ACLU of Illinois’ best practices.
Among other suggestions, the ACLU of Illinois believes that any ALPR system must:
- Establish appropriate oversight of the system, including restricting access to the system only to those who are trained for use and setting limits on how long data can be stored and how it is used;
- Set strict limits on specific criminal activity to be investigated by the cameras – it should not be used simply to collect fines and fees;
- Protect the data collected by the camera system; and,
- Require an annual independent, public audit that reports any privacy violations (and any appropriate discipline) and evaluates the efficacy of the system.
You can read the ACLU National March 2022 report on the massive surveillance system being built by Flock, one of the major purveyors of ALPR systems.