Virginia Limits Retention Of License Plate Capture Data To 7 Days

Image courtesy of (frankieleon)

We’ve shared with you before the that both private companies and law enforcement are combining images of motorists’ license plates with geographic data about where those plates were spotted. Some states have passed laws limiting how long this data can stay in databases or banning its collection altogether, and Virginia has joined that list as of this month.

Private scanning systems are a particularly helpful tool for tow truck companies that repossess vehicles, since they can compare the vehicles right in front of them to a list of cars that have been reported delinquent or stolen. However, these scanners also collect plate and geographic data, uploading a record of which cars were in which location and when that can be stored indefinitely and accessed by private investigators, insurance companies, and law enforcement.

Interestingly, the bill that will go into effect in Virginia in July isn’t specifically about license plate scanners. It’s more broad, designed to prevent the retention of any kind of identifying data that could be picked up and stored. Scanners could also use facial recognition to keep track of when we walk down a street, or VINs. Chap Petersen, the Virginia state senator who wrote this bill, explained in an interview that he wanted to prevent tracking methods that we have haven’t even thought of yet. “[Law enforcement] shouldn’t just be able to use any tech that they want or to surveil people when they’re not subject to an investigation,” he told Ars Technica. “You can’t just do it because you feel like it, and that to me is very critical.”

Virginia passes shortest limit in US on keeping license plate reader data [Ars Technica]