License plate databases raise privacy questions
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- If you have a car, pay attention to this story. Did you know it's possible that information about you is being recorded and saved in secret national databases?
By simply passing vehicles on a highway, a city street or in a parking lot, car-mounted cameras can record up to 3,500 license plates a minute. A computer then saves and tags the plate picture with the date, time and location it was taken.
So who's out there scanning plates? And where does the information go? The answer is private companies, car repossession agents and more than 37 percent of large law enforcement agencies across the country.
Some police departments keep their own databases, but other law enforcement agencies and repo firms send it to private companies, like MVTRAC. The company is a leading plate recognition system seller, and it maintains a massive national license plate photo database.
"There's no law that would impact how the different municipalities and states would implement this, and therefore the potential for misuse or unintended use is extraordinarily high," said attorney Mary Ellen Callahan, a former chief privacy officer for the Department of Homeland Security.
This International Association of Police Chiefs survey shows some agencies keep the plate information indefinitely, while others delete data after a few months.
The association says it's critical to crime fighting and police keep the information secure.
"We don't know of a single instance where automated license plate recognition data has been misused or abused," said David Roberts, a member of the association.
MVTRAC says it keeps its plate data indefinitely and only police and car repossession companies who've passed an in-depth background check can access its database.
"There's no real concern for privacy unless you've done something wrong. If you've done something wrong, if you're a murderer, if you are a child abductor, if you've committed a crime or if you haven't made your car payments in a long time, then that's a permissible purpose as well," MVTRAC employee Scott Jackson said.
MVTRAC says it does not sell the plate data to members of the public or marketing firms.
action13, jeff ehling
- Employees shot outside Galleria area restaurant 47 min ago
- Is Pearland mom the most 'unstoppable?' 6 min ago
- Kids hospitalized after chemical leak at pool
- One taken to hospital after SUV drives into salon
- Live: Watch Eyewitness News live now
- Girl gets finger stuck in recalled Easy Bake Oven
- Wrestler hugs opponent's dad after loss 14 min ago
- Malaysia not sure which way lost jet was headed 50 min ago
- Flight diverted to Houston after baby stops breathing
- Federal government could get involved in school fight 30 min ago
- Prom dress shop rallies community to help teen 39 min ago
- Self-penned obit takes internet by storm
- Doc reaches deal in bizarre break-in case
- Fix the most common mistakes made at the gym 15 min ago
- Spruce up your furniture for spring
8 min ago
- Fix the most common mistakes made at the gym
15 min ago