License plate scanners, which are known as Automatic License Plate Readers, are being used by police departments throughout the country in increasing numbers. Scanners are placed in the front of police cars which scan the license plates of vehicles within their field of vision searching for the license plate numbers in a national database. Police in Columbia South Carolina report that roughly 20 stolen motor vehicles have been located by the use of these license plate scanners. Civil liberty groups fear that these scanners could help compile data would could be used to create a national data base which would record the location and date of every single license plate on every vehicle that is scanned. This data base could be used to track everybody's movements which could help create a gigantic government database which would help the government track each and every citizen of this country. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sent record requests to 38 different police departments throughout the United States requesting that they be provided information on how the information obtained from these license plate scanners is used and if and where it is stored. The ACLU also wants to learn if third parties have access to this information and whether the police departments store this information from the license plate scanners. Instead of targeting particular individuals, like GPS devices do, license plate scanners have the potential of tracking everyone, regardless of whether they are suspected of doing anything illegal. Officials in Maine retain the data for 21 days while in New Jersey the data is retained for five years. The ACLU has yet to receive the information that they requested.
Since this is a relatively new technology, it is important that citizens get as much information as possible to determine the extent to which our privacy is being infringed upon.
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