ACLU: Cops Collecting, Storing Data on Millions of License Plates

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The American Civil Liberties Union says U.S. motorists should be aware that information is being collected about them, whether they're suspected of committing a crime or not.

Through Freedom of Information requests in 38 states, the ACLU said Wednesday that police have developed license-plate scanners that amount to "government location tracking systems recording the movements of many millions of innocent Americans in huge databases."

ACLU Staff Attorney Catherine Crump, the report's lead author, contends that most Americans aren't aware they are under surveillance from these scanners that are usually mounted in pairs on the rear fender, the trunk or the roof of police cars and parking enforcement vehicles.

Some of the license plate cameras are set up on road signs and bridges as well.

Virtually every license plate that gets flagged by police, according to the ACLU, has nothing to do with a crime, such as looking out for stolen cars.

Crump says what's even more troublesome is that there's very little oversight of the data that gets collected and stored in databases, meaning the information could presumably be compromised.

To get an idea of how extensive the practice of license plate scanning has become, the ACLU says that in Jersey City, N.J., alone, there were more than two million plate reads last year.

The group recommends that if the practice continues, cops should only do a thorough investigation of data if there's reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred.  The group also wants records deleted within days or weeks at most if there's no legitimate reason to hold onto it and says motorists should be allowed to find out if their car's license plates have been scanned.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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