California police cannot share out-of-state driver location data

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A legal settlement in Northern California will impact how two San Diego County police departments handle driver location data.

The activists represented by the American Civil Liberties Union announced on Wednesday regulation in their lawsuit against the Marin County Sheriff for sharing data collected from automated license plate readers with outside and federal agencies, in violation of two state laws.

As part of the deal, Marin County and Sheriff Robert Doyle agreed to only share driver location data with other California law enforcement agencies and pay $49,000. $ in attorney’s fees.

“This settlement is a victory for disadvantaged and marginalized people, including immigrants, who have historically suffered civil rights violations through invasive police surveillance,” said Vasudha Talla, director of the rights program immigrants to the ACLU of Northern California.

The contract gives the tech conglomerate control over data collected by police surveillance tools such as drones and automated license plate readers.

How police handle location data has become a point of contention for activists fighting for a number of causes, as many states across the country debate laws that criminalize women. ask for an abortion where the parents get gender-affirming care for their children.

A new source investigation in January revealed that half of San Diego County’s 10 local law enforcement agencies had illegally shared license plate data with other agencies across the United States. Small police departments in states as far apart as Florida, New York and Connecticut have had access to San Diego County driver location data.

Police and municipal authorities in Escondido and La Mesa originally doubleddefending the practice of sharing data out of state and claiming they were doing nothing wrong, but then agreed to temporarily suspend the practice.

Courtesy of Chula Vista Police Department

Three automated license plate readers are shown atop a police cruiser in this undated photo.

After the Marin County settlement was announced, La Mesa Police Capt. Matt Nicholass said new source that the department will completely end this practice. But Escondido officials aren’t ready to make that commitment.

license plate readers are small cameras mounted on patrol cars or stationary objects such as lampposts, which capture every plate that appears, extracting the time, date, location and sometimes a partial image of the vehicle. They automatically compare the plate number to a list of vehicles wanted by the police.

Because this surveillance technology has the power to collect sensitive and private information — such as a person’s daily routine or social network — state lawmakers in 2015 strengthened driver privacy protections. and established strict rules on how the police can use the technology, including who has access to the information collected.

State Law says that this data can only be shared with “public agencies,” which are defined as California state agencies.

Activists call cameras an indiscriminate data collection effort and point out national examples law-abiding citizens become a victim through police misconduct or misunderstanding of technology.

“We are not against law enforcement and the use of surveillance to solve crimes,” said Yusef Miller, a social justice activist with the North County Equity & Justice Coalition and the Racial Justice Coalition. from San Diego.

“But this technology needs to be governed, it needs to be transparent, and it needs to be held accountable to those who abused that data.”

Carlsbad, Coronado and Oceanside police stopped sharing with all out-of-state agencies after questions from new sourcebut before the survey was published in early January.

Escondido and La Mesa officials pushed back. Escondido City Attorney Michael McGuinness sent an email challenging the accuracy of the investigation.

Their argument boiled down to the definition of public agency, saying that it would include other agencies outside the state.

Six weeks later, police in Escondido and La Mesa decided to change course, but only to temporarily discontinue the practice. La Mesa officials said they want to await the results of the Marin County lawsuit and would consider resuming if it becomes clear that law enforcement has been encouraged to share license plate data outside. of State.

But that’s not what happened.

The settlement says Senate Bill 34 prohibits California police from sharing license plate data with other out-of-state agencies.

Escondido Police Chief Ed Varso previously said in an email that he and the city attorney continue to disagree with new source reports, and he only decided to suspend the practice of sharing to find balance and maintain trust in the community. He added that he would let residents know if he decided to resume sharing data with out-of-state agencies.

After hearing from the colony, Varso said new source the department would decide to resume out-of-state data sharing only if there was “a state law review or other court case that further clarifies state law.”

Many California police departments continue to violate the law by sharing such sensitive information out of state, said Adam Schwartz, lead attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundationanother agency representing the activists who filed the lawsuit in Marin County.

“They have to stop,” he said. “In the future, we will try to identify California police departments that continue to violate (the law) and ask them to stop, and if they don’t, we may sue them. as we sued the Marin County Sheriff.”

The issue has become particularly pressing as anti-choice and anti-transgender officials in other states are suing people coming to California for health care.

“We can expect them to turn to California police and say, ‘We want your license plate data,'” he said.

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