ACLU of Illinois Calls for End to Information Sharing Program, Sends Letters to Lombard, Burr Ridge, Downers Grove and Mundelein Police Departments

Today, the ACLU announced it has discovered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is using mass location surveillance to target immigrants. Records obtained by the ACLU of Northern California in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit detail ICE’s sweeping use of a vast automated license plate reader (ALPR) database run by a company called Vigilant Solutions. Over 80 local law enforcement agencies from over a dozen states – including four in Illinois - have agreed to share license plate location information with ICE. 

In response, the ACLU of Illinois is calling for an end to this information sharing and has sent letters to law enforcement agencies that were identified as sharing ALPR information with ICE: Lombard, Burr Ridge, Downers Grove, and Mundelein. 

“This information gathered by ALPR technology helps ICE target, locate, and deport immigrant community members as they drive to work, run errands, or bring their kids to school. Any sharing of this data directly with ICE violates privacy and civil rights of immigrants and their families and puts these communities at serious risk,” said Karen Sheley, Police Practices Director, ACLU of Illinois. “At a time when immigrant communities are under multiple attacks by the Trump Administration, the best way forward is for local police departments to stop sharing this information and, further, reject the use of ALPR technology altogether.”

The ACLU’s grave concerns about the civil liberties risks of license plate readers take on greater urgency as this surveillance information fuels ICE’s deportation machine. Many communities throughout Illinois have license plate readers: high-speed cameras mounted on police cars, road signs, or bridges that can photograph every passing license plate. Together with time, date, and location coordinates, the information is stored for years, generating a literal and intimate roadmap of people’s private lives. Vigilant sells ALPR systems to local police and hosts location information collected by law enforcement and private companies in a massive database called LEARN.

In conclusion, the letters demand that the Illinois police departments:

  • Limit use of license plate reader cameras and technology, and to reconsider use of this technology altogether.
  • Adopt a usage and privacy policy governing use of ALPR technology that includes additional protections to prevent residents’ data from being used for the purpose of enforcing immigration law.
  • Support efforts to increase transparency, accountability, and oversight of decisions to acquire or use surveillance technologies.

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