The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia sued the Fairfax County Police Department Monday, asking a Fairfax court to order the police to stop the “passive” collection of data from automated license plate readers that photograph thousands of cars per day and record their location.
The suit came after Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed two bills on Friday which would have allowed Virginia police to keep the license plate data for only seven days, and which defined license plates as “personal information.” Virginia already has a “Data Act” law which prohibits government from gathering personal information on citizens unless the need has been established in advance, and in 2013 then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) issued an opinion to the state police that maintaining a data base of license plate photos violated that act. The state police now purge the data after 24 hours.
But Fairfax police have said they keep the data for a year. Harrison Beal, who lives in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County, found that his car had been photographed in April and May of last year and was in the police database. He is the plaintiff for the ACLU’s suit. “The Department’s ALPR database can be used to discover the location of thousands of vehicles at a particular date and time,” said ACLU lawyer Rebecca Glenberg. “It is an unacceptable invasion of privacy.”