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    Los Angeles Times: Privacy advocates sue LAPD, Sheriff’s Department

    The Los Angeles Times reports that the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police and Sheriff’s departments concerning privacy questions about the use of license-plate recognition systems. The groups have requested through the state public records act one week’s worth of the license-plate scanning data gathered and kept by the departments. (See a previous post for more information on the camera surveillance technology.)

    Privacy rights groups on Monday filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County’s two major law enforcement agencies after they refused to turn over information collected by electronic license plate scanners, the suit claimed.

    The Los Angeles Police Department and L.A. County Sheriff’s Department have made use of the plate-reading technology for several years. Typically mounted on patrol vehicles, the small cameras continuously scan license plates and check them against criminal databases in search of stolen cars and cars registered to known fugitives. […]

    In filing the suit, however, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation raised concerns that the license plate information collected and stored by the two departments invades people’s privacy.

    Peter Bibring, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, said his group has no objection to police using the cameras to search for stolen vehicles but wants the LAPD and Sheriff’s Department to quickly erase any data on cars and drivers not connected to any crime. […]

    Currently, the Sheriff’s Department keeps data collected by the cameras indefinitely, said spokesman Steve Whitmore. LAPD Lt. Andrew Neiman declined to comment, citing the lawsuit. City rules on record retention, however, indicate that such information is kept for five years. […]

    The technology is used widely by police. According to a 2012 report by the Police Executive Research Forum, 71% of police departments reported using license plate scanners.

    The lawsuit filed Monday stems from requests the two groups made under the state’s Public Records Act for one week’s worth of license plate data collected by the two agencies. Both departments refused, saying the information was investigative material and therefore did not need to be released under the records act. Bibring said attorneys for the two groups will try to convince a judge otherwise.

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