Cuyahoga County Council Considering Restrictions For License Plate Scanning

[Matt Richmond / ideastream]
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Cuyahoga County is considering installing 20 license plate cameras at intersections in the county, but there are questions about whether the program would be an invasion of privacy.

The cameras would capture license plates at 20 busy intersections around the county. All plates would be stored in a database. Law enforcement can search the system to track people they’re investigating.

But, says ACLU of Ohio’s Gary Daniels, by tracking a car, the government can learn a lot of extra information about people. First on Daniels’ list: political and religious beliefs, but it went on.

“The medical, mental health and substance abuse care we receive, whether or not we own guns, our sexual orientation and so much more information many of us wish to remain private," says Daniels.

The ACLU expressed concerns about how the information will be used, who will have access to it and how long it will be retained.

The response from the county public safety department: it’ll be used for investigations, it’ll be accessed only by law enforcement and they’re working on a policy for how long information can be retained.

Councilmember Nan Baker asked Dan Grein, an officer with the Chagrin Valley Dispatch Center, for law enforcement’s thoughts on the bigger issue.

“How do you in your discussions know where to draw the line that gives protection to those that are law-abiding people thinking they are in a free society that is not being watched every minute?” asked Baker.

To which, Grein responded:

“That’s a good philosophical question. This project is looking at one element and that’s license plates. That’s all we’re interested in.”

The county’s safety committee plans to add amendments on data storage time and who will have access to the database.

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