State lawmakers consider regulations on license plate readers

Anyone can buy an automatic license plate reader on the Internet

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Civil rights advocates are urging state lawmakers to regulate the controversial use of license plate readers.

By October, drivers will no longer have to scramble for cash on the Massachusetts Turnpike. The state is phasing in an electronic system, so if you don’t have an E-ZPass transponder, you’ll have to pay extra. The “Pay by Plate” system takes a picture of your license plate, and mails a bill to you for the toll. Brian Shockley of Vigilant Solutions explains that even if a plate is obstructed, most technology can still capture the driver’s information.

“We use both color cameras and infrared cameras, so there are two cameras in each – inside of each camera. So, if we don’t see it on the color side, we’ll see it on the infrared side or vice versa,” said Shockley.

Automatic license plate readers can also be found in many police patrol cars, and on the underside of bridges and intersections. Civil rights advocates are worried that law enforcement and private data-collecting companies can collect and ultimately save a driver’s personal information.

Kade Crockford of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts said, “a license plate reader attached to a police car could drive through a parking lot at an A.A. meeting and effectively download a list of people who are attending that meeting, so the information is more sensitive.”

The A.C.L.U., the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts is pressuring state lawmakers to regulate automatic license plate readers. They want to require law enforcement and private companies to delete a driver’s data within days or weeks if they’re not accused of a crime.

Anyone can buy an automatic license plate reader, but only certain people have access to the state’s motor vehicle database.

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