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Editorial: There is a danger of too much data for too long

Published 8:09am Monday, July 29, 2013

There is growing concern across America about the increasing level of surveillance at all levels of government — from government cameras to government eavesdropping on phone calls.

The American Civil Liberties Union reported this week that police across the country are routinely using automatic camera-scanners to take digital photos of vehicle license data and store it for a period of time.

This new technology can and should be useful to law enforcement in solving or preventing crime.

The plate readers can signal an officer when it promptly recognizes a stolen car or plate on a vehicle. Law enforcement can also use the technology to identify witnesses or suspects in and around a crime scene.

The privacy issue lies in how this information is utilized and stored over a period of time.

The Minnesota State Patrol purges all such data promptly after 48 hours, according to a USA Today report. That is a good example of appropriate use and purging of data.

One California town has never purged its license data that have been collected.

The challenge here is the wide opportunity to misuse such data by law enforcement or other government agencies. The longer this information is held, the more any government agencies can know about innocent drivers’ whereabouts and their private lives.

Therein lies the danger.

— West Central Tribune, July 19