Automatic License Plate Reader

Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay was a guest on a statewide news program this morning talking about the use of license plate reader technology and how Duluth Police deploy the technology on city streets gathering and saving large amounts of data.

Chief Ramsay says that Duluth Police currently use two of the scanners, they are mounted on marked squad cars and they can read "thousands of plates per hour."

Ramsay said that his department was very careful to craft a "very thorough policy that addressed the training of the officers that used them, how the data is accessed and the data retention time."

When the scanner reads your license plate it records the date, time and GPS location of the sighting and Duluth Police save that data for 30 days.

Police can then go back into that data if they need more information on a specific crime or suspect. During the interview Ramsay did give one example where this information was key in a kidnapping crime "a couple of years ago."

The data is also used in real time as a squad car drives around Duluth, if the system identifies a stolen vehicle or a car wanted in a crime it will notify the officer immediately.

The Chief said that a log is kept on people who access the information to safeguard the data and help make sure that it is only being used for official police business.

You may be also shocked to learn that it is not only the police who use these readers, but the public also has access to this technology, a simple Google search reveals hundreds of options, so expect to see stores, malls and other private organizations deploying this new technology soon to better serve advertisements to you.

What do you think? Is it OK for local governments and even businesses to scan your license plate data and keep, share or use the data? And where is the line? Will this technology evolve into cameras that can track the actual people in your car with facial recognition software?

Watch How License Plate Readers Work

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