Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
A "License Plate Reader" or LPR, one of two mounted on the trunk of a Metropolotian Police Department(MPD) is seen on a police car in Washington, DC, December 1, 2011. It works silently in the backround automatically recording automobile license plates that drive by and then rapidly checks a computer database of stolen or wanted cars. Hundreds of MPD police cars have the cameras forming a virtual net looking for stolen vehicles.
Privacy rights groups are suing the LAPD and the LA County Sheriff’s Department after the law enforcement agencies refused to hand over info gleaned from their license-plate scanning technology.
Officials claim the technology, which scans license plates and checks them against criminal databases, has helped officers find more stolen vehicles and criminals at large, and that the time and location data can later help investigators piece together crimes.
But the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who filed the suit, are concerned about an invasion of 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.
Jennifer Lynch, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation
Steve Whitmore, LA Sheriff's Deptartment spokesperson