On Friday, Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed SB250, a bill aimed at “using automatic license plate recognition systems to identify stolen vehicles
and uninsured motorists.” The bill, which previously passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature, was originally introduced by State Senator Ronnie Johns (R-Lake Charles).
According to The Times-Picayune, if the bill had become law, automatic license plate scanners would have been placed on mobile trailers, bridges, and law enforcement vehicles in 9 Louisiana parishes at a cost of $5 million. The legislation would have allowed law enforcement agencies and their contractors to store the data collected by the scanners for up to 60 days. A private contractor providing the equipment would have been allowed to collect 30% of the revenues raised by license plate readers.
A statement by Governor Jindal read, “Senate Bill No. 250 would authorize the use of automatic license plate reader camera surveillance programs in various parishes throughout the state. The personal information captured by these cameras, which includes a person’s vehicle location, would be retained in a central database and accessible to not only participating law enforcement agencies but other specified private entities for a period of time regardless of whether or not the system detects that a person is in violation of vehicle insurance requirements. Camera programs such as these that make private information readily available beyond the scope of law enforcement, pose a fundamental risk to personal privacy and create large pools of information belonging to law abiding citizens that unfortunately can be extremely vulnerable to theft or misuse… For these reasons, I have vetoed Senate Bill No. 250 and hereby return it to the Senate.”
The Times-Picayune estimates that 25% of Louisiana’s motorists are uninsured.
Privacy advocates worry that the cameras, which scan the license plates of all vehicles passing through a particular location, provide too much information about the whereabouts and movements of law-abiding citizens.
Analysis of a similar program in Oakland, CA by Ars Technica found that it was ineffective at its intended purpose and significantly affected the privacy of innocents. “Earlier this year, Ars obtained 4.6 million LPR records collected by the police in Oakland, Calif. over four years and learned that just 0.16 percent of those reads were ‘hits.’ We discovered that such data is incredibly revelatory. We were able to find the city block where a member of the city council lives using nothing but the database, a related data visualization tool, and his license plate number,” wrote Ars Technica’s Cyrus Farivar.