Longboat Key cameras raise privacy concerns - WFLA News Channel 8

Longboat Key cameras raise privacy concerns

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SARASOTA COUNTY, FL -

License plate cameras are now up and running on Longboat Key.

They're positioned at the north and south ends of the island, and they run the tags of every car that passes by.

After only a couple of days, officers already made an arrest thanks to the technology. 

"This is a tremendous benefit to the department and the community, really," said Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming.

The system compares the photos to state and national databases looking for violations- anything from an expired tag to a kidnapper. If there is a hit, the picture is then sent to dispatch, and an officer is contacted.

Hits only come up when a violation is found, but Cumming says every single photo taken is stored for up to ten years.

"They're all stored as evidence, that's right. Even if we don't use them," said Cumming.

Some feel these cameras pose an invasion of privacy.

The cameras only snap photos of license plates, not your faces. But the ACLU has some serious privacy concerns. They're worried these cameras could be misused to track people's movements.

In a recent report, the ACLU said these cameras store vast amounts of data on innocent people.

The group is concerned about the length of time the data is stored. The ACLU also commented that the cameras pose a risk to people's privacy since it could be used to track people's movements.

The report stated:  "Anyone with access to these systems could track his boss, his ex-wife, his romantic or workplace rivals, friends, enemies, neighbors, family, and so forth. An agent could target the owners of vehicles parked at political meetings, gay bars, gun stores, or abortion clinics."

"There are regulations, policies and laws in place that prohibit that kind of abuse. And if abuse is discovered, it's punished," said Cumming.

The chief says these cameras do the same work any patrolman would do, only a lot quicker.

The ACLU says there are cameras like these all across the country, but not all of them store the data for the same time period as Longboat Key.

For example, the Minnesota State Patrol only keeps license plate data for 48 hours.  The Ohio State Highway Patrol deletes all non-hits immediately.

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