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Bad Solution Seeks Nonexistent Problem: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Not wanting to let California steal all the headlines as the most aggressively anti-technology legislature in the nation, Massachusetts is now pushing hard to shut down the effective use of a technology that solves crimes, helps victims and protects communities.

If a handful of lawmakers in Massachusetts get their way, the Bay State will soon pass the nation’s strictest law governing the use of license plate recognition (LPR) technology. As written, the legislation would dramatically limit the collection and retention of LPR data, significantly lowering its value as a law enforcement tool.

Earlier today, we published a white paper explaining, in detail, why the legislation is not only unnecessary, but also poses a serious challenge to Massachusetts law enforcement.

While there are many excellent arguments against the bill, in a rational world, the entire debate would end with the first one: it’s trying to solve a problem that simply doesn’t exist.

In all of the debate over LPR, nobody has presented a shred of evidence that LPR technology is being abused, or that the privacy of law-abiding citizens is being undermined. To the contrary, all of the actual data that has been presented in the debate – much of which is synopsized in the white paper – paints a picture of a well-regulated technology tool that is working exactly as intended.

It is also a technology that is already very tightly regulated, thanks to the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994, which strictly limits the ability to link LPR data – which is confined simply to license plates – with personally identifiable driver’s license data.

So why does this legislation even exist?

Earlier this year, the ACLU whipped its constituents – and by extension, many lawmakers – into a frenzy with a poorly sourced, misinformed, and outright inaccurate presentation about how LPR technology might be used for nefarious purposes at some future date.

The ACLU got just about everything wrong, from the technology to the regulatory oversight that governs it, but that hasn’t stopped some advocates from pushing hard to crack down on the technology.

The time to push back against these baseless attacks is now, and the place is Massachusetts, where NetChoice will be working hard to prevent the passage of legislation that would be bad for state residents, but even worse as a precedent for other states to follow.