Plate scanners raise privacy fears

Technology allows officers to check far more plates than if they were entering the numbers manually


By Sarah Burge
The Press Enterprise

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Police departments across the Inland area have embraced a new technology that helps officers on patrol to locate stolen cars, felony suspects and more by instantly scanning the license plate numbers of passing cars.

But as these license-plate scanners become more common here and across the country, a lesser-known use for the devices is raising concerns among privacy advocates. Some police departments are amassing the scans in bulging databases that can be used to track an individual's movements.

"That's very troubling," said Peter Bibring, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. "What's happening is police departments are compiling databases of the movements of law-abiding citizens, or, at least, their cars.

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