A Minnesota state agency decreed on Monday that a vehicle’s location data as captured by license plate readers, which under existing state law had been completely public, should now be kept private. This comes more than four months after a Minneapolis public committee lobbied to change the state’s policy. The new temporary measure will expire in 2015.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “The Department of Administration ruled Monday that the following data generated by license plate readers would be private: plate numbers; times, dates, and locations of vehicle scans; and vehicle photos.”
As we reported earlier, Minnesota has a rather liberal open records state law known as the Data Practices Act, which makes all government data public by default. That means that anyone (up until now) could request the entire data set—including license plate data—from any law enforcement agency.
In December 2012, Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak requested to a state committee that the data be immediately re-classified as “non-public.” The new proposal resulted from increased scrutiny of the practice in Minneapolis after a local reporter managed to track the mayor’s movements in August 2012 by filing a request with the police.
Sgt. William Palmer, the department’s public information officer of the Minneapolis Police Department, told Ars in December that the agency had fulfilled nine requests for a 90-day LPR data set, sent by postal mail on a 4GB flash drive. The data covered August 30, 2012 through November 29, 2012. Palmer did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for an updated figure.
One of those requests was granted to Mark Pitts, who runs a local firm called Datalytics LLC. Pittsclaimed that he had determined the location of the city’s stationary license plate readers, which collected more than 2 million records in 90 days.