Civil Liberties

LAPD Sued Over License Plate Reader Privacy Violations

Cops are building a massive database of public movements


Privacy groups are upset that law enforcement has been using cameras to track the movements of motorists who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. To investigate how this information is used, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last year formally sought information on automated license plate recognition cameras (ALPR, also known as ANPR in Europe) from law enforcement agencies around the country. The Los Angeles, California Police Department (LAPD) refused to hand over some related documents, so the ACLU joined on Friday with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in filing a lawsuit to compel disclosure.

Police agencies and politicians claim the high-speed tracking cameras are only used to find stolen cars, but the machines in Los Angeles have already collected 160 million pieces of information on the public, including individuals not suspected of having committed any crime. The ACLU and EFF sought last August to obtain a sample week's worth of the actual data LAPD collected so that the public could judge for itself.