ACLU of Iowa Today Seeks Information on Automatic License Plate Readers From 16 Iowa Government Agencies

Affiliate: ACLU of Iowa
August 1, 2012 2:06 pm

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Iowa
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As part of an ongoing effort by the ACLU nationwide, the Iowa affiliate today completed sending out open records requests to state agencies, county sheriffs, and larger cities’ police departments, asking for information on the use of automatic license plate readers.

The controversial devices are most often mounted on patrol cars, although they may also be placed on telephone poles or other stationary objects. They can sweep 360 degrees, capturing images of every license plate they encounter. The data is then fed into a massive database for use and analysis. Information collected includes precise location, time, and date of each plate.

Such massive data collection over time represents a potential threat to the privacy of innocent Iowans. As data is accumulated over months or years, it can be used to learn where a car has been over the course of any particular day. So the ACLU wants to find out more about how law enforcement and other agencies use the devices. It also wants to know how they store, access, and share the data.

“We are seeking more information about how Iowa police are using this new technology because it poses a number of privacy concerns to civil libertarians. We want to know if and how police are tracking and recording the movements of Iowa drivers,” said Ben Stone, ACLU of Iowa executive director.

The following police departments, county sheriff’s offices, and state offices were included in the request:

Ames Police Department
Cedar Falls Police Department
Cedar Rapids Police Department
Coralville Police Department
Davenport Police Department
Des Moines Police Department
Iowa City Police Department
Iowa Department of Public Safety
Iowa Department of Transportation
Iowa State Patrol
Johnson County Sheriff’s Office
Linn County Sheriff’s Office
Polk County Sheriff’s Office
Sioux City Police Department
Waterloo Police Department
West Des Moines Police Department

For more information on the ACLU’s nationwide public records request, and for more details on concerns about automatic license plate readers, please go to

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