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License plate scanners storing data on all drivers

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It’s technology that helps solve crimes by reading license plates faster than a human eye, but new concerns are growing about the information license plate scanners collect about millions of law abiding citizens.

The use of license plate scanning cameras by law enforcement agencies brings about mixed feelings for some drivers.

“Beneficial and violating at the same time,” said Kelly Rossman of Indianapolis.

Law enforcement agencies say the benefits are clear. Cameras mounted on cruisers can help officers locate stolen vehicles, catch wanted criminals or keep tabs on sex offenders all thanks to technology that can read up to 100 licenses plates per minute.

The issue is, the cameras read and save images of every license plate they scan. Now, a national study by the ACLU has discovered that there is very little regulation for all that information.

“Nationwide, the issue that we’re facing is that law enforcement has been quietly collecting incredibly detailed and personal information about the travel patterns of perfectly law abiding Americans,” said Kade Crockford with the ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberties Project.

Fox59 News found that IMPD has six cruisers with scanning cameras, the Marion County Sheriff’s Department has four and the State Police have two. Though all three use them, they don’t all handle the data in the same way.

The State Police have a clear policy. The agency keeps the information for 30 days and then deletes it from its server.

“If a crime has occurred, and there’s a delay in the reporting, usually that delay is not going to be more than a couple of weeks,” said State Police Captain Dave Bursten. “So 30 days should give us enough cushion.”

The Marion County Sheriff’s Department and IMPD both turn their data over to the Indianapolis Department of Homeland Security, which does not have a clear policy.

Director Gary Coons tells Fox59 News that their server is currently being replaced and the license plate cameras are not currently being used. However, he says information was previously stored for anywhere from three to six months depending on how quickly the server filled up.

“Our recommendations in the (ACLU) report suggest that departments keep the information for days or weeks instead of months or years,” Crockford said.

It’s a recommendation State Police agree with.

“Technology is advancing rapidly and the laws related to technology are very slow to catch up,” Bursten said. So then it comes back to people in government and private industry using good judgement. From our perspective, we think we’re using good judgment.”

Following this report by Fox59 News, Coons said the Department of Homeland Security will reevaluate their data policy and may adopt a timeline similar to that of the Indiana State Police. Stay with Fox59 News for the latest on this story.

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