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Debunking the Phantom Threat of License Plate Recognition

Legislation that limits technology takes lots of different forms, but most often it arises when lawmakers want quick fixes to behavioral problems by knee-capping technology.   Sometimes just the fear of possible future bad behavior is enough to trigger knee-jerk legislative intervention.

That’s the case with the new crusade against Automated License Plate Technology (LPR). Driving the crusade is a slick campaign conceived by the American Civil Liberties Union. In it, the ACLU warns of a host of potential misuses with LPR tools, while conveniently neglecting to mention that none of them has actually occurred.

[pullquote]NetChoice today released a new interactive report that separates LPR fact from fiction.[/pullquote]

If you say something enough it becomes the truth. In this case, if the ACLU repeats the same canards enough, it’s all some lawmakers need to hamstring an important and effective technological tool.

In an effort to push back against these efforts, NetChoice today released a new interactive report that separates LPR fact from fiction.

As it turns out, when you strip away the ACLU’s baseless – and in some cases, outright misleading – rhetoric, the facts tell a very different story about LPR technology and the role it plays in keeping communities safe.

I highly recommend the entire presentation, but in short, it clears up a couple of key points.

  • LPR technology works: The report details several specific incidents in which LPR technology has actually saved lives. More than 87 percent of law enforcers in our recent survey reported that LPR technology had helped solve major felonies like murder and kidnapping.
  • LPR technology respects privacy: LPR technology doesn’t record driver’s faces, and isn’t equipped to do so. LPR cameras take snapshots only of license plates, which are, by their nature, public.
  • LPR technology is already regulated: Citizens are protected from biggest phantom fear that the ACLU raises – that LPR data could be linked to identifiable driver’s license data – by a law that’s been on the books since 1994. The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act ensures that only law enforcement officers can link license plate data to DMV data.

There’s much more in the report, but the bottom line is simple. Public policy debates should be based on the facts – not unjustified fears.

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