License Plate Readers in NH – Live Free or Spy?

Joe FraserNews & Views

The following is reposted from my op-ed in the Foster’s Daily Democrat….

On Wednesday, January 13th, there will be a vote to allow license plate readers in the State of NH (HB 675). Currently, the only license plate readers authorized for use in NH are at EZ-PASS toll booths.

License plate readers (LPR) are a serious civil liberty and privacy concern. As one would expect, the American Civil Liberties Union have come out against there use.

What may be surprising is that even law enforcement has raised some serious concern in a 2011 report by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP):

“Recording driving habits could implicate First Amendment concerns. Specifically, LPR systems have the ability to record vehicles’ attendance at locations or events that, although lawful and public, may be considered private. For example, mobile LPR units could read and collect the license plate numbers of vehicles parked at addiction counseling meetings, doctors’ offices, health clinics, or even staging areas for political protests.”

This seems like some serious business. As we know, everything in Government has been known to have issues staying private. During political campaigns, tax returns have been known to beleaked out by the IRS. Do we really want a new opportunity for those in power to take out their opponents? Or How about when a NY newspaper printed the names of all gun owners in their area….Do we really want something similar happening? Maybe a list of who was involved in a protest or who’s car is sitting outside an abortion faculty. I don’t believe this is out of the realm of possibility down the road if we let these into NH.

Data security is also a concern. Who has access to the data that is collected and for how long? The city of Boston recently shut down their LPR system after privacy concerns were raised when the police department mistakenly released the license plate numbers of 68,000 that had tripped alarms of automated license plate readers.

There are a few companies making a ton of money off of getting law enforcement to purchase this equipment with tax payer money. To do that they are also paying lobbyist to go around state by state and ensure they have no roadblocks. Right now, their focus is on NH as we are the only state left in the nation to have a ban on law enforcement use of their equipment. In fact, in Chicago, Redflex Traffic Systems Inc, admitted to a 2 million dollar bribery scheme was used to get their equipment into the Chicago. It seems that like the very profitable military defense industry, there is a lot of profit to be made at the tax payers expense. All this and we are still legally unsure if they are constitutional. In Missouri, their Appeals Court ordered that they were unconstitutional.

I for one, hope that NH sticks to it’s values of individual freedom. Live free or die is not just a quote we remember by General John Stark a few hundred years ago, it is the state motto, and the NH way of life. The legislator, should remember that and vote down this bill as far as I am concerned. Time is short if you are inclined to call your State Representative.