The Free Press, Mankato, MN


January 29, 2013

Lawmakers to weigh in on license plate readers


Holberg, the bill's author, said she's waiting to hear arguments from police but she'll likely push for "an extremely short" retention period.

Bloomington Police Sgt. Mark Elliot said the short window lawmakers have in mind would wipe out any investigative power the database gives police. That's the case law enforcement will try to make when hearings start, with success stories from the longer retention period.

Chuck Samuelson, executive director of American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, said there should be a one- to two-day retention period, plus strict penalties for officers who improperly access the database and disclosure about where the readers are located.

"You cannot allow those things to be hidden by the government," he said.

Republican Rep. Tony Cornish and said it's "probably one of the few things in my life I've ever agreed with the ACLU on." Cornish, a peace officer for more than 30 years, Cornish said he would support no more than a 48-hour window when plates don't get an immediate hit.

All of the tracking data in the state has been under wraps since Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak asked the state to reclassify it as non-public in December.

But before then, Minneapolis police's location data had been requested by people checking where their cars has been spotted; engineering students at Carnegie Mellon University and Dartmouth College looking for data analysis practice; and reporters, bloggers and data privacy advocates. One woman asked the police for information on her brother-in-law's plate to see if he was violating the terms of his work release program.

A work group set up to make recommendations to the Legislature on crime and justice issues suggested making all data from license plate readers private to keep sensitive information out of the wrong hands. Lesch and Cornish said they both support making it private.

Don Gemberling, a data privacy expert and member of the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, said his group will ask the Legislature to keep the information public as a means to "know what the cops are doing."

"The further we go into the technology ... the more important we think it is that we all know what's happening to us," Gemberling said.

Text Only | Photo Reprints