California Rejects Bill Which Would Restrict Vehicle Tracking

A bill that would have restricted the ability of public and private agencies from using data obtained via vehicle tracking technology -- also known as a licence plate reader (LPR) -- for things other than cracking down on crime failed in California's state Senate on Wednesday. 

SB 893, which was penned by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), states that data collected through the high-tech LPR camera "systems cannot be the sole reason for establishing probably cause to obtain a search or arrest warrant," according to the Sacramento Bee. The high-speed camera technology, which is employed primarily by law enforcement, uses captured license plate images to track criminals.

The bill fell three votes short of the 21 it needed in order to pass, with an 18-15 vote. 

Hill noted that while the cameras have been used as a successful crime-fighting tool, such as the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department's successful recovery of 495 stolen vehicles in the first month they used the LPR technology, he also cited instances where the technology was abused. One such case involved an officer who had used the tracking device to follow a woman he met while he was on duty. 

Fellow Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) said that she had voted in favor of the bill with the expectation that revisions would be made to it. Her hopes were that the revisions would strike a better balance between people's privacy and law enforcement groups, which have expressed concern that the bill would inhibit their ability to fight crime, the Bee notes. 

For the time being, LPRs and the data they acquire remain unrestricted.

Photo: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department


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