License Plate Scanning Technology Suspended Over Privacy Concerns

By: | December 27th, 2013

Police in Boston have been forced to suspend their car registration scanning technology, which scans drivers’ license plate numbers and feeds the information into a database. The scanning devices can instantly check if a car has outstanding parking tickets, outdated insurance or any other driving violations.

But as the Boston Globe reports, the scanners have been put on hold due privacy concerns. The newspaper has previously exposed how the technology could be misused.

“We just took [the scanner technology] off-line while the commissioner reviews it,” said Boston police spokeswoman Cheryl Fiandaca, who explained that the police commissioner William Evans will examine it for any privacy infringement concerns and ensure that is being used appropriately.

The scanning technology has been heavily scrutinized by different organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. “The Globe’s investigation makes crystal clear that departments cannot police their own use of this complex and powerful tool,” said Kade Crockford, director of Technology for Liberty project at the ACLU of Massachusetts.

The organization is calling for a statewide ban and for legislation to be put in place: “The legislature must step in to provide some basic rules, as well as checks and balances to make sure license plate readers aren’t used for warrantless tracking of innocent drivers. The Joint Transportation Committee should recommend swift approval of the License Plate Privacy Act, the legislature should pass it, and the Governor should sign it into law.”

Jonathan Keane

Irish journalist writing on business, tech and engineering.


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