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Monday, December 16, 2013

Boston Police Suspend License Scanning Program After Leaked Data Results In Questions Over Privacy

Boston, MA - Officials for the Boston PD say the department has suspended its license scanning program after data inadvertently leaked to independent investigators revealed such inconsistencies in its usage that questions have been raised about the program’s ability to protect the privacy of licensed drivers.
THE BOSTON GLOBE  Reports that a quick scan of a driver’s plate by one of the program’s devices instantly reveals lapsed parking tickets, expired insurance, and any other legal matter the car’s owner may be involved in, as well as the GPS locations of any previous scans.

A spokeswoman for the BPD, Cheryl Fiandaca, said, “We just took [the scanner program] off-line while the commissioner reviews it.”

Fiandaca said Commissioner William Evans, “Wants to review it so he knows that it’s being used effectively and that it doesn’t invade anyone’s privacy.”

The data released shows some plates that have been scanned literally dozens of times, including a reported stolen motorcycle that was scanned 57 times in six months.

Most egregious, according to opponents of the program, is the fact that in many instances there has been no internal follow-up by the BPD in cases in which scans have returned violations.

Jonathan Hecht, a Watertown state rep who has filed a bill aimed at regulating the program, said, “It’s not realistic to think that law enforcement will police itself when it comes to technologies like these license plate readers.”

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