Concerns about Automatic License Plate Readers

Only City Council members and authorized staff are allowed to post on this message board.
Jose Chito Vela
Posts: 34
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2022 8:16 am

Concerns about Automatic License Plate Readers

Post by Jose Chito Vela »

Colleagues,

After weeks of research and consultation with privacy experts, I have developed grave concerns over the proposal to reinstate the Automatic License Plate Reader program for our police. These concerns are shared by many in the community, from local constituent groups to national organizations like the ACLU.

ALPRs allow the government to gather extensive information about the movements and associations of all Austin residents. While this surveillance network may generate evidence for solving some limited crimes, it does so at the expense of the privacy of our city’s residents.

In 2003, the Austin City Council passed a resolution in response to the Patriot Act’s unprecedented expansion of government surveillance. Resolution NO. 030925-66 specifically barred the surveillance of individuals or groups of individuals “without reasonable and particularized suspicion of criminal conduct.” I stand by this statement of Austin’s values, and I believe the ALPR resolution in its current form would violate these long held principles.

I propose the following changes to the ALPR resolution:

1. Limiting acceptable targets to pre-approved categories of crimes and emergencies

We should limit the types of crimes we target to those which require escalated police involvement, like stolen vehicles, violent crimes, and missing persons cases. If we fail to constrain the targeted crime categories, ALPR technology is easily exploited by targeting politically marginalized groups and conducting “fishing expeditions” for warrants as trivial as a decades-old misdemeanor charge.

2. 3-minute retention period for data not associated with a crime or emergency

A 3-minute retention period would limit the use of ALPR technology to the identification of pre-flagged license plates. A 30 day limit is extremely excessive for this purpose and allows for abuses like the NYPD’s practice of tracking mosque attendees or multiple PD’s practice of recording all vehicles in attendance at Black Lives Matter protests. If we allow a longer limit, we are endorsing a surveillance program that could potentially track the movements of all vehicles in the city without any evidence of criminal behavior.

3. Limiting the sharing of ALPR data to purposes consistent with Austin’s values

ALPR data is historically insecure. In addition to frequent leaks of millions of people’s private information online, ALPR data is regularly used by organizations like ICE to target immigrants for deportation. Legal experts also warn that the state of Texas will almost certainly use ALPR data to enforce abortion bans. These are only a few examples of the multitude of ways our data could be abused once it leaves the protective custody of our city government. We must control access to ALPR data as strictly as legally possible.

The only ALPR program I would consider is one with substantial protections for civil liberties, including all 3 limitations outlined above. In that spirit, I offer the following as a substitute resolution to item 90.

Link: http://assets.austintexas.gov/austincou ... 162504.pdf

Saludos,

Chito
Ann Kitchen
Posts: 287
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2015 4:04 pm

Re: Concerns about Automatic License Plate Readers

Post by Ann Kitchen »

Colleagues

I offer amendments focused on data security related to LPRs. Regardless of which direction the Council goes in with regard to CM Kelly and CM Vela proposals on LPRs - I think it is important to specifically address best practices related to data security. Thank you to CM Mackensie Kelly and Chito Vela for bringing these provisions.

My proposed language with regard to data security directs the City Manager to include:

Best practice data security provisions including, but not limited to:

 Role-based access to limit database access to specific officers who must sign an agreement to operate within policies subject to disciplinary action;

 Designation of a Security Officer with responsibility for receiving daily alerts on attempts to log in and/or access data that is not permitted, and for
regularly monitoring access to data stored under this provision; and

 Other best practice provisions related to data security for data storage,including the most secure options available for maintaining data.

The City Manager is directed to consult with the City of Austin Security Officer in the development of these provisions.

Amendment to CM Kelly’s Resolution:
http://assets.austintexas.gov/austincou ... 142701.pdf

Amendment to CM Vela’s substitute:
http://assets.austintexas.gov/austincou ... 142846.pdf

Best Regards
Ann Kitchen
City Council D5
Ann Kitchen
Council Member District 5
Jose Chito Vela
Posts: 34
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2022 8:16 am

Re: Concerns about Automatic License Plate Readers

Post by Jose Chito Vela »

Thank you for the amendment, CM Kitchen. It is a good addition and I have no objection to it.

Chito
Post Reply