While I applaud the Tennessee General Assembly for addressing the important matter of government gone wild tracking and storing license plate scans using automated licenses plate readers, the legislation just passed has a big gaping hole in it.
Analysis by John Carr
The bill prohibits government agencies from storing automated license plate tracking data, with an exception for “an ongoing investigation.”
LA is arguing that all tracking data is potentially useful in a criminal investigation. If Tennessee courts allow a similar claim then the exception swallows the rule. Another example is the NSA’s phone tracking. The NSA got a court order confirming their right to track every phone call everywhere just in case.
The alternative is to launder the tracking data through the FBI or some other federal agency, or even a private database. The law does not prohibit the state from sharing or selling tracking data. That’s the issue in the LA case: license plate scans are public records unless an FOIA exception applies.
So I form a company to aggregate tracking records. I buy plate scans from police at a tenth of a penny each. I sell data for ten dollars per computerized search, plus subscription fees, plus witness fees if the information needs to be admitted into evidence. Or they pay me a penny per scan to put each scan into my database and get an alert if the plate is on their wanted list.