MCLU Accedes to Transportation Committee Compromise on Surveillance Cameras

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
February 23, 2010 12:00 am

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Today the Maine Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee voted 6 to 2 to 1 in favor of a compromise that would put significant safeguards on the deployment of automated license plate recognition systems (ALPRs). While the compromise falls short of the total ban sought in the original legislation, it would nonetheless provide important protections against government abuse of power and threats to the right to privacy.

The legislation, LD 1561, “An Act to Regulate the Use of Traffic Surveillance Cameras,” as amended would restrict use of the ALPRs to law enforcement agencies, the Maine Department of Transportation and the Maine Turnpike Authority. The amended legislation provides for purging of data pertaining to law-abiding citizens every 21 days and ensures that the databases are confidential. The legislation also directs the Secretary of State to convene a working group to study the use of ALPRs and recommend privacy and security policies to next year’s legislature.

“The Transportation Committee clearly recognized the importance of our constitutional privacy rights,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. “We are encouraged to see clear limits placed on the use of this powerful technology and restrictions on how long data on law-abiding citizens may be kept. We all have a right to be left alone, and while this compromise does not go as far as the MCLU had originally hoped it would, the Committee deserves praise for its careful consideration of the competing values.”

The original legislation, for which the MCLU had testified in support, would have completely prohibited the collection of data on the whereabouts of law-abiding individuals using ALPRs. Rep. Doug Thomas (R-Ripley) voted in favor of passage of the original legislation without amendment. Representative Mike Carey (D-Lewiston) and Representative Ed Mazurek (D-Rockland) voted for an additional safeguard to restrict use of the new technology to South Portland police under a year-long pilot program while a study committee reviews the issue.

“All three positions taken by Transportation Committee members today are positive steps in the protection of the right to privacy” said Bellows. “Every single member of the Transportation Committee publicly voted in favor of privacy safeguards on surveillance technology. Every single one of them recognized that unfettered use of this technology concentrates too much power in the hands of the police.”

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