News sources are reporting that Memphis “will put its first license-plate reader on the street next month and plans to add 65 more in the next year. The device can read up to 1,500 plates a minute and instantly sift through databases searching for outstanding warrants, stolen vehicles, expired tags, suspended licenses or other violations.”
Memphis Commercial Appeal reports, “The readers will tap into data collected at the Real Time Crime Center. The $3.5 million center includes an incident crime ticker, wall-to-wall monitors displaying cameras trained around the city, and a massive databank instantly available for officers in the field.” Also, the city has asked “businesses and individuals to register surveillance video equipment so the police can put more eyes on the street.”
I discussed the issue when Washington, DC, began expanding the use of these license plate readers. One of the biggest questions is: What happens to all the data on innocent individuals? After all, we don’t know what the restrictions are on the collection and use of the data. In the UK, police admitted (under the pressure of Freedom of Information Act requests) that they are keeping for five years the data from license plate scanners recording the trips of 10 million drivers a day — even those drivers who are innocent.