Currently, the Portland Police Bureau collects tens of thousands of random license plate numbers every day and stores them indefinitely. Unfortunately, since the development and spread of “automatic number plate recognition,” this practice has become widespread. According to a report by the ACLU, nearly 75% of police agencies already use the technology, and 85% of police agencies said they plan to increase its use within the next five years.
In Oregon, there are currently no regulations in place regarding the use of these cameras and the retention of the data. Ideally, Oregon would follow New Hampshire’s lead and prohibit the use of automatic license plate readers. However, despite the serious privacy concerns, Oregon will instead legitimize the use of these cameras, but attempt to cure the privacy issues by limiting the government’s ability to retain the information.
This is how Oregon ended up with Senate Bill 1522, which would require the government to destroy captured license plate data within 14 days, unless a law enforcement agency makes a request based on a showing of reasonable suspicion that the information is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation. On the bright side, this bill is still in the early stages of consideration, and the first public hearing is set for 8 a.m. on February 10, 2014. This means that there is still plenty of time to provide input to your legislators and tell them that you don’t think the government should spend your money collecting data on innocent people.