The use of technology has greatly changed how many businesses and governmental entities conduct business and obtain information. While technology is often credited with many positives, in some cases, concerns have been raised related to the use of such technologies particularly those used to obtain personal information about American citizens.

The Boulder police department is among those agencies being targeted by leaders of the Colorado American Civil Liberties Union related to department practices for obtaining, retaining and using driver’s license plate information. Police officials contend, however, that current practices related to how the license plate information is used and retained do not infringe on civil liberty rights.

Currently, the Boulder police department has two license plate readers which it uses to automatically scan drivers’ license plates. The license plate information is then run through a database where it is compared to the personal identifying information of individuals with outstanding warrants, suspended driver’s licenses and criminal convictions.

There are, however, no formal restrictions in place related to how the information can and cannot be used. There are also no formal policies in place related to how long the police department is allowed to retain an individual’s driver’s license information. Boulder police officials, however, contend the department has enacted a 90 retention policy for license plate information. Therefore, if no match is made within the department’s criminal database during a three-month window of time, the information is deleted.

Officials at the ACLU assert that the widespread collection of license plate information could easily lead to abuse and misuse. For example, such information could be used to track or trace an individual’s movements. Likewise, the information could be used to harass or entrap individuals who have past
criminal convictions or whom officials suspect of engaging in criminal activity.

Source: Daily Camera, ”
ACLU urges Boulder to limit license plate data storage,” Joe Rubino, Aug. 6, 2013