You're being tracked: ACLU says license plate scanners put you at risk

How far is too far when it comes to access to your personal information? The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently released a study saying license plate scanners are becoming an invasion of privacy.

FOX25's Christine VanTimmeren talked with the ACLU and police about scanners here in Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma Police Department has 17 license plate scanners used on police vehicles. The ACLU says it has no problem with that, but the group is worried about where all that information from those scanners goes, and how secure it is.

We live in a society full of technological surveillance. Whether it's cameras at the grocery store, companies tracking the click of our mouse, or license plate scanners use by police.

"It's not different from our phones," said Oklahoma City resident Kayla Woodberry. "I think that is more of an invasion of privacy than getting my license plate scanned."

According to a recent study by the ACLU, license plate scanners can be a slippery slope to privacy invasion.

"We have no objection to that part of the technology, the problem is what you do with all of that data," said ACLU of Oklahoma Legal Director Brady Henderson.

When a license plate reader scans your vehicle, your license is matched up against the National Crime Information Computer. That information is then stored in a database. The ACLU says it is worried about the security of that database because there are no state or federal regulations.

Edmond resident Brian Hampton told FOX25 News, "Whenever you start getting into things like military and police then it absolutely becomes a slippery slope really quick."

OKlahoma City Police Master Sergeant Gary Knight says their system purges all irrelevant data every 60 days. The plate scanners only match up license numbers against numbers in the crime database. He says no personal information like where you live or your name ever goes into that database. But Henderson says there needs to be more accountability.

"What can happen though is that unintended consequence of taking us down that slippery slope and eventually becoming more surveilled as a community because of it."

We asked Oklahoma resident Greg Phillips if he was worried about the database security, "In a police database? No, doesn't bother me. I feel fine."

The ACLU hopes to encourage city council to enact an ordinance about the security of license plate databases and how long information is stored. It wants to make sure there's no chance of that information getting into the wrong hands.

To see the full ACLU national study click here.