ACLU says automatic license plate readers are invasion of privacy

Local agencies included in inquiry, but none are using readers yet

Erin Jordan
Published: August 1 2012 | 7:00 pm - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 10:31 pm in

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa is seeking information from Iowa law enforcement agencies about use of automatic license plate readers, which the group says are an invasion of privacy.

The ACLU of Iowa sent open records requests to 16 Iowa law enforcement agencies to learn which ones may be using the plate readers, which capture license plate information and feed it into databases for analysis. ACLU branches in other states are making similar requests.

Among Iowa agencies included in the inquiry are police departments in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Coralville, as well as the Linn County and Johnson County sheriff's departments.

None of these agencies has the automatic plate readers, officials said Wednesday.

Automatic plate readers can be mounted on patrol cars or stationary objects to record the location, time and date of each plate spotted.

"Such massive data collection over time represents a potential threat to the privacy of innocent Iowans," the ACLU said in a prepared statement. "As data is accumulated over months or years, it can be used to learn where a car has been over the course of any particular day."

Other agencies from which the ACLU is seeking information include: Ames Police Department, Cedar Falls Police Department, Davenport Police Department, Des Moines Police Department, Sioux City Police Department, Waterloo Police Department, Polk County Sheriff's Department, Iowa State Patrol, Iowa Department of Public Safety and the Iowa Department of Transportation.

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