Since 2004, The Ohio State Highway Patrol has checked millions of vehicles and
made more than 220 criminal cases, using 11 fixed Automatic License Plate Readers on Ohio's turnpike and nine mobile units mounted on state cruisers.
"We are not against license plate readers per se; there are good things that can come from their use. The problem is that there are no standards out there," said Gary Daniels, Associate Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.
The ACLU filed public records request nationwide looking for how many readers are being used, how long the data gathered is kept and who it is shared with.
"We found it is like the Wild West out there." There is nothing constricting law enforcement except for individual department rules and regulations regarding the use of this technology," Daniels said.
An Ohio State Highway Patrol Spokesperson said only data connected to criminal cases are kept for prosecution. "If it is a clean license plate with no hits, no wants or warrants, stolen vehicle, stolen license plate, that information is automatically deleted," said Lt. Anne Ralston.
The Franklin County Sheriff's Office which maintains data for 15 surrounding counties has a similar policy, except the data is kept for 90 days, then purged.
"The information is looking for basically terrorist, stolen cars, people with warrants on them and things of that nature so, as far as your average citizen driving down the road there is no reason for them to be concerned about the data," said Sheriff Zach Scott.
"Can't we have some sort of state law that balances the use of this technology vs. the privacy instances of Ohioans?" said Daniels.
He said the ACLU is looking for some common sense regulations at the state and federal levels.
"It's ok for citizens to ask questions about what we are doing with the information. The OSP takes great steps to protect people’s privacy," said Lt. Ralston.
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