Construction for the Kings’ new arena, Golden 1 Center, is moving right along. As with all downtown arenas, ample parking will be an important factor in the success of the arena as a popular venue. One inevitable byproduct of a multitude of parking garages in a limited area is the potential for people to forget which one they parked in. Apparently this routinely happens in the open lots at Sleep Train Arena.
To help address this problem once Golden 1 opens, the city of Sacramento has come up with an idea: install license-plate recognition cameras in city-owned garages, and provide a phone service for people to use that will tell them where their car is.
In theory this idea sounds pretty innovative. But, I have yet to find (granted I haven’t asked the city yet) any policies on how this data will be protected. For example, I’ve written before about many police department’s lack of policies on retention and use of license plate tracking software and data. In this case I would also be very interested in hearing how the city plans to make sure that only owners or authorized users of the vehicle are able to access the system. I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to be concerned about how this system could be abused by stalkers, abusive spouses, etc.
So, while I applaud the idea and think it could be used effectively, I am also eager to see how the city plans to protect the data. Specifically, I would like to see four things included in an official policy:
- A limited amount of time that the city stores the data
- Access to the data limited to necessary city personnel
- Safeguards to limit accessibility to vehicle location while a vehicle is parked
- Limits on sharing the data with other departments, agencies or governments
Making parking in downtown garages easier and more convenient is definitely welcome, but even more important is safeguarding the privacy of people who choose to use those garages. Hopefully the city will take these concerns seriously.
Back in December I noted that NOPD has no stated policy for their usage and retention of data gathered through its use of license plate scanners. I was alarmed at this, but haven’t had much time to pursue it further.
Fortunately, the ACLU shares my concerns. Today, the ACLU released a report that analyzes the results of a nation-wide study on law enforcement policies of using and retaining data acquired by these scanners. The results are not good for privacy concerns.
New Orleans or Louisiana are not specifically mentioned in the study, but I intend to restart this project and attempt to get the Independent Police Monitor involved in the next couple of months. As I stated in December, “All I want to know is exactly what NOPD uses this data for and how long they keep it. I don’t think that’s asking too much.”
Those are the words reported to me this week by NOPD relayed through the New Orleans City Attorney’s office in response to my public records request from July. Yes, July. Never mind that the Louisiana public records law requires documents to be produced in 3 days. That’s not the big issue here though.
In case you missed it this summer, there was a story about a burglary suspect who was caught as a result of an NOPD vehicle that is able to scan license plates and run them through a computer while driving.
According to Uptown Messenger’s reporting:
“The reader, affixed to a normal patrol car, automatically scans the license plates it passes and checks to make sure they aren’t on stolen cars, but it also maintains a geographical database of the tags it passes.”
Overall I have no issue with the technology. But it’s that last line that got my attention because of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, United States v. Jones. As a result of that decision I seriously wonder if NOPD could have some major 4th Amendment problems with their use and/or storage of the license plate data they collect.
So, I requested the full NOPD policy regarding the use and storage of data associated with any and all departmental vehicle license plate scanners. The city attorney’s response:
“Please be advised that the Police Department has informed our office that no such record exists.”
This terse, 4 1/5 month late response will certainly not be the end of this. All I want to know is exactly what NOPD uses this data for and how long they keep it. I don’t think that’s asking too much.