Photo: (Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department)
Show us the data.
That’s the message behind a joint lawsuit seeking to force the Los Angeles law enforcement authorities to release a massive trove of information collected by ubiquitous cameras that read license plates and can thus track the movements of millions of motorists not suspected of any crime. The cameras, called automatic license plate readers (ALPRs), are on fixed locations, including stop lights, street signs and in squad cars. Each camera can record as many as 1,800 plates per minute, and more than 160 million “data points” have been collected in Los Angeles County, according to one report. Critics say that gives authorities a huge database on the comings and goings of ordinary citizens.
“By matching your car to a particular time, date and location — and building a database of that information over time — law enforcement can learn where you work and live, what doctor you go to, which religious services you attend, and who your friends are,” said Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch, whose group has joined with the American Civil Liberties Union in filing suit. “The public needs access to data the police actually have collected to be able to make informed decisions about how ALPR systems can and can’t be used.”
The lawsuit, filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, asks a judge to order the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to release records from the week of Aug. 12, 2012. While both agencies did provide some materials following requests filed under the California Public Records Act, they failed to disclose documents related to sharing information with other agencies, the lawsuit alleges.
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