SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah senator wants to limit access to data collected through license plate scanners traditionally used by law enforcement.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, presented legislation on Wednesday to the Senate Transportation Committee that would limit law enforcement's access to scanned information to only nine months and private companies access to the data for seven days.
Weiler explained the data could essentially reveal much of a person's movement throughout a day. That means the government may have in a database where a person traveled throughout the day if they had their license plate scanned by law enforcement in the various places they traveled. Weiler said police agencies typically use the scanning data to locate stolen vehicles and enforce parking laws, but he was concerned the data could be used for more.
"I don't want to stop catching criminals. I do want to put a tighter lid on the data being harvested," Weiler stated to the committee.
According to Weiler, law enforcement agencies have been collecting data from license plate scanners for years. That data had no security protocol to it until 2012 when lawmakers learned about this database. After learning about the database the Legislature's Administrative Rules Committee put in place a rule that the data could only be accessed if a law enforcement officer had a case number.
Weiler wants to tighten access to that database and limit the amount of time the government and private companies can keep information on hand. His bill would make it so a court order would be required before someone could see the database as well as restrict the amount of time the data is retained.
Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, said it felt creepy to realize how much information may be kept about a person by the government. She wondered if the data could be accessed by anyone in the public through a records request. Weiler explained that the records are not accessible to the public as they are protected records.
The bill is supported by the ACLU of Utah. Marina Lowe, the organization's legislative liaison, said the group would actually prefer to see the time limit that data can be kept trimmed down to 12 hours. Lowe argued that half a day was long enough for a police officer to gather a license plate number and have the usual places scanned where stolen cars are found. She stated tracking of people's movements is a significant invasion of a person's privacy.
The committee unanimously agreed with Weiler's proposal and it now moves forward to be considered by the full body of the Senate.