They are in use by many law enforcement agencies and private entities across the country, but the ACLU says this technology is often "deployed with too few rules that is becoming a tool for mass routine location tracking and surveillance."

Automated license plate reading (ALPR) cameras are a technology that law enforcement and other agencies use to capture and process images of vehicle license plates. They offer several advantages but also raise privacy and accuracy concerns.

The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office announced that they have installed seven of the automated license plate reading cameras and as of December 1st, 2023 these cameras have been capturing data.

The Sheriff's Office does say that the "cameras capture license plates and vehicle characteristics, not people or faces" and any search of the data would require a "justification and involves a traceable audit." The data collected is never shared or sold with third parties, according to a press release about the new cameras.

Nelly Security
Nelly Security

“We are here to keep people and their property safe, and this is going to help us do that. I’ve seen lost people with dementia found and habitual criminals arrested thanks to these systems”, said St. Louis County Sheriff Gordon Ramsay.

Groups like the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation point out this technology presents a complex blend of benefits and drawbacks, particularly concerning privacy, data security, and accuracy. They efficiently collect tons of data, including detailed movements and patterns of individuals, often without any criminal accusations, raising significant privacy concerns and potential for misuse. The data collected is stored for long periods, sometimes indefinitely, by both public agencies and private companies, leading to worries about data security and the risk of unauthorized access or misuse.

Flock Safety, a company that offers this technology, says that over 3,500 communities are using their technology and that over 1,000 crimes are solved per week using ALPR technology.

According to a database maintained by Electronic Frontier Foundation, Duluth, Superior and Hermantown police all use automated license plate reading cameras.

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