Public Comments for: SB1198 - Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act; license plate readers.
The ACLU of Virginia strongly supports SB1198. The bill would amend the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act (Virginia’s important privacy protection law) to clarify that your license plate number is a personal identifier, ensure that government agencies can’t avoid complying with the Act by purposely keeping data systems separate so that they can argue that they aren’t an information system covered by the law, and prohibit policing agencies that use automated license plate readers to vacuum up pictures of automobiles “just because and just in case” from keeping those pictures (which usually reveal not just your license plate number but bumper stickers and are geo tagged with time and location) for more than 30 days, unless directly related to a criminal investigation. This is a common sense personal privacy protection measure that draws the right balance between government’s need to know things about you and your right to keep your personal movements confidential from government. While ALPRs can serve a valid and useful law enforcement purpose, they can also be used to build a vast database of vehicle locations that may be queried to build profiles of where individuals go, at what times, and how often, and who else is in the vicinity. It is one of the many new technologies that allow for massive surveillance of Virginians not suspected of any criminal activity. As one legislator said, it allows the government to find “probable cause by algorithm.” To ensure that all law enforcement and regulatory agencies in the Commonwealth protect the privacy of Virginians, the General Assembly should pass SB1198 that clarifies that license plate numbers are personal information under the Data Act and that police cannot keep information collected through “passive” use of ALPRs unrelated to a criminal investigation for more than 30 days.
Only Law-enforcement or DMV should ONLY have access to any type of license plate readers. NO ONE else should be allowed to access this information.