SB 1330 Reins in the Use of License Plate Recognition Software

Bill Update: SB 1330 (Simitian) failed passage off of the Senate Floor and is dead.  Prior to the Senate Floor, the bill was approved by the Senate Transportation and House Committee with a vote of 5-3 and the Senate Judiciary Committee with a vote of 3-2. 

CFC Position: Support

The Consumer Federation of California supports Senate Bill 1330 (Simitian), because it will safeguard Californians’ constitutional right to individual privacy by reining in the use, and increasing abuse, of license-plate recognition (LPR) software on both innocent and criminal drivers.

The Supreme Court – in the recent case of United States vs. Jones – ruled that investigators cannot attach secret, warrant-less GPS monitoring devices to vehicles. This landmark ruling unfortunately hasn’t deterred law enforcement from across the country from vastly expanding the use of these high-tech scanners to take a picture of every passing license plate and automatically comparing them to databases of outstanding warrants, stolen cars and wanted bank robbers.

To the extent that there are legitimate law enforcement uses of this data, private companies like Vigilant Video, are also utilizing this LPR software, reportedly scanning over 40% of the vehicles in the country on an annual basis. By scanning and retrieving this data, these companies can begin creating detailed, virtual roadmaps of every driver’s movements and a host of other private activities unrelated to fighting crime.

Innocent Californians should not be having their vehicles monitored, potentially tracked, and that data stored and then sold for profit to third parties like asset recovery companies and financial institutions (among others) – all without their knowledge or consent.

SB 1330 will provide common sense privacy protections by limiting the amount of time enforcement agencies in California can retain the information gathered by LPR software to 60 days unless the information is being used in felony investigations.

Also, by restricting companies from transferring the gathered information to anyone who is not a law enforcement officer, SB 1330 ensures that a person’s personal information stays out of the wrong hands for the purpose of corporate profit, not improved public safety.

The Consumer Federation of California supports SB 1330 (Simitian) because it strikes the proper balance between law enforcement’s legitimate use of LPR scanners for fighting crime and catching criminals and respecting all Californian’s constitutional right to privacy.