WASHINGTON — In a dragnet, license plate numbers are collected from cameras mounted on police cars but the information is kept for six-months or indefinitely, especially in Northern Virginia.
“They are used to collect, literally in an hour along the roadway, thousands of license plates of passing vehicles,” says Virginia Del. Rich Anderson (R-51st District) from Prince William County.
He introduced a bill governing the readers during this Virginia General Assembly session after hearing from numerous citizens.
He says the citizens expressed privacy concerns over the massive amounts of license plate numbers collected and personal information being kept for long periods of time.
But the bill is now on hold until next year. Del. Anderson says the reason for the delay is that law enforcement wants to be involved in the process of shaping the bill.
He says, “I don’t argue that [the plate reader] has a legitimate law enforcement purpose.” But he says those needs need to be balanced with the needs of privacy for citizens.
“In the process of sweeping up the bad guys, which is a legitimate function, they sweep up the good guys also,” says Anderson.
His goal with the bill is to come up with rules that work for civil liberties and also works for the needs of law enforcement.
Anderson also says citizens expressed concern that the data being held could be compromised.
“It seems like everyday or every other day you pick up a newspaper or listen to a news story where something has happened where personal and private data has been compromised.”
Anderson says there is bi-partisan support from Virginia lawmakers on this issue.