The Chicago Sun-Times published an editorial about a measure introduced in the Illinois General Assembly that would place modest regulations on the use of automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) by law enforcement. ALPRs are mounted camera devices used in police cars to scan the license plate number of every car in its vicinity. The bill, which the ACLU of Illinois drafted and is sponsored by State Senator Daniel Biss, would create guidelines for their use including how the data collected is stored. While ALPRs are helpful to police in tracking stolen vehicles, they are also powerful surveillance tools that have the potential to infringe on the privacy rights of law-abiding Illinois motorists.
We need a law that meets both the needs of law officers and innocent citizens. We want to catch criminals, but in a free society we can’t forget law-abiding citizens have a right to live their lives without cameras making permanent records of their every move.