4th Amendment rights are something we talk about rather frequently on the blog, especially as technology continues to makes it easier to access hordes of personal information. As you’re probably aware, authorities aren’t allowed to search a person without consent or a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed, but what about information collection? That’s the debate at hand surrounding police license plate readers.
License plate readers are typically mounted on police cars or tollways to collect information about motorists in the area. Some of the data the cameras collect include:
- The license plate number.
- The date and time of the encounter.
- The location of the encounter.
The government is touting the technology as a way to keep citizens safe – after all, they would hypothetically be able to track felons with warrants or dangerous criminals on the run – but others believe the tracking system violates privacy expectations.
“The government asserts, ‘Oh, we need this, because we might have a cold murder case. There might be a crime that comes up later and this will give us investigative leads,'” said ACLU of Illinois senior lawyer Adam Schwartz. “We understand that, but it is not the way our society should operate that the government keeps track of innocent people.”
House Bill 3289
Illinois legislators are fighting back against this data collection with the help of House Bill 3289, which stands to limit the use of automated licenses plate readers. Even in a limited capacity, the bill states that the information collected on these devices can only be used for a few limited purposes, and the information can’t be kept on record for more than 30 days without a court order.
“So the government has to destroy its own information within 30 days,” said Schwartz, “and the government can’t buy more than 30-day-old information from the private sector.”
Not surprisingly, opponents of HB 3289 have made it clear that they are willing to forfeit individual freedoms under the guise of safety. As Ben Franklin once said, “those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.” Opponents of the proposed bill said the data tracking systems should remain in tact because limiting the collection of private data could hinder future criminal investigations. This is akin to the thought process of “it’s better that nine innocent men be locked up than one guilty man go free.”
We can’t sacrifice our 4th amendment protections to potentially make the world a safer place. We need to restrict the collection and dissemination of our private information.
Related source: Progress Illinois