Md. AG supports police keeping license plate reader info

Neal Augenstein,

WASHINGTON – Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler believes police holding onto data gathered from license plate reader systems does not cause privacy concerns for drivers.

The technology, used by most police departments in the region, automatically scans the license plates of passing cars and checks plates against a list of stolen cars, outstanding warrants and Amber Alerts.

“In the past (officers) would have to look at a license, call it in and get the information back,” Gansler says. “By then, the person is long gone.”

However, privacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say there are not uniform rules on how long police can keep that information, and authorities shouldn’t keep permanent records of people not suspected of doing anything wrong.

“The difference is, these are not records of people, these are records of license plates,” Gansler said in an interview with WTOP.

The lack of uniformity is causing local police departments to evaluate their procedures for purging information gathered by the reader systems.

Some departments automatically delete the information after 30 days. Others decline to disclose how long they keep the information.

Gansler says license plates are by definition public, and retaining plate information does not pose a threat to privacy.

“What if you had a list of license plate numbers from six years ago? What could you use that information for that would be in a bad way? Really, I can’t conceive of any,” Gansler says.

Rachel Nania contributed to the story.

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(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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