In These Times spoke with ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Adam Schwartz about legislation the ACLU supports, Senate Bill 1753, which will place modest regulations on the use of Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPRs) by Illinois law enforcement. ALPRs are cameras mounted on police cars which scan and record the license plates, and store the dates, times and GPS locations of every vehicle in its vicinity.
The potential of this technology to enable police to undertake widespread, systematic location surveillance poses real concerns about privacy rights, which the bill aims to redress.
ACLU of Illinois staff attorney Adam Schwartz says the bill would allow police to use ALPRs in precise, legitimate ways, while protecting the public from privacy problems associated with mass collection of location data—like the government knowing which doctors’ offices you visit. Under the bill, government agencies could continue to use ALPRs to collect traffic tolls, ticket illegally parked cars, or find an Amber Alert kidnapper, Schwartz explains. However, a police officer could no longer type in your license plate number to see everywhere you have been, or search the site of a protest for all cars that passed through.