License Plate Scanners are Appearing Across U.S.


Share this Post

Police, across the country, are now using license plate scanners to record and store information from millions of license plates, creating a database that can be used to track down the whereabouts of United States drivers.

The American Civil Liberties Union recently released a report called "You Are Being Tracked: How License Plate Readers Are Being Used to Record Americans' Movements", that summarizes their 2012 investigation on how officers are using these scanners to store license plate numbers. The investigation went underway after receiving 587 Freedom of Information requests from 38 states.

The license plate scanners are typically mounted on traffic lights, light poles, and the dashes of police cars. When a car passes by the scanner will take a quick photograph of the license plate and then will analyze the license plate number and run the number through the list of cars that are connected to ongoing investigations.

The ACLU Staff Attorney, Catherine Crump, and head author of "You Are Being Tracked: How License Plate Readers Are Being Used to Record Americans' Movements", stated that the license plate scanners are "in effect, government location tracking systems recording the movements of many millions of innocent Americans in huge databases."

The ACLU goes on to say, that only a small portion of the license plates that are scanned result in a "hit" to illegal activity, and the information they collect can essentially be stored in the databases indefinitely.

While it is legitimate to use license plate readers to identify those who are alleged to have committed crimes, the overwhelming majority of people whose movements are monitored and recorded by these machines are innocent, and there is no reason for the police to be keeping records on their movements.
-ACLU Report

Law enforcement argues that the license plate scanners help to track down criminals related to violent crimes, however there are no regulations to control how the information from the innocent citizens is being used or stored.

The ACLU is requesting that regulations be put into place to control the mass tracking of citizens and how long the information collected will be stored within the databases.

You can read the American Civil Liberties Union's entire article by going to