Sen. Petersen, Del. Anderson propose limits on police data collection, regulation of license plate readers

state-capitol2For the 2015 General Assembly session, Senator Chap Petersen and Delegate Rich Anderson will introduce legislation to regulate License Plate Readers (LPRs) in the Commonwealth, specifically placing limitations on passive data collection and retention by police departments.

Currently there are no limits on data collection or retention by police departments in Virginia, leading to massive differences in practices in different jurisdictions. According to The Washington Post, the City of Alexandria keeps license plate data for up to two years, while the Virginia State Police delete their data within 24 hours.

Anderson and Petersen’s companion legislation would limit the retention of LPR data to seven days from the time of collection. LPRs have many uses, particularly in recovery of stolen vehicles, however Anderson and Petersen are concerned about excessive data collection using these devices.

Sen. Petersen: “We believe that LPR data should be purged after seven days and appropriate limits on the use of personal data should be in place,” Sen. Petersen said. “We feel our legislation strikes a balance between personal liberty and public safety in Virginia.”

Del. Anderson: “I have the highest trust and respect for Virginia’s law enforcement professionals who ensure our safety, but the overwhelming sentiment of our citizens is that we restrict the collection, dissemination, and retention of data that many feel violates our centuries-old principles of personal privacy. Sen. Petersen and I are prepared to work with law enforcement and our constituents to ensure that a fair balance is achieved between liberty and safety.”

Regulating LPRs and limiting data collection has been a focus of the Ben Franklin Privacy Caucus, a bipartisan group of like-minded legislators interested in controlling the unnecessary collection of personal data. Sen. Petersen and Del. Anderson are the Co-Chairmen of the caucus.

Last fall, the Ben Franklin Liberty Caucus held public hearings on LPR regulations and practices.

Regulating LPRs also has been a focus of the Virginia ACLU. The Virginia ACLU previously agreed with a legal opinion by then Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli recommending limitations on LPR data retention in 2013.

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