WAMU 88.5 : News

Filed Under:

License Plate Readers Raise Privacy Concerns In Maryland

Play associated audio
Technology that can read license plates of passing cars has raised the ire of Maryland privacy advocates.
NBC Washington
Technology that can read license plates of passing cars has raised the ire of Maryland privacy advocates.

Police throughout the region use automated license plate readers as a crime-fighting tool, but privacy concerns have law enforcement in Montgomery County, Maryland on the defense.

Unlike in D.C., the readers in Montgomery County are mobile. For example, they can be moved into areas that have had a series of burglaries. The devices can read up to 1,000 license plates an hour. Civil liberties groups are concerned the information the readers collect can be used for non-crime fighting purposes.

Montgomery County state's attorney John McCarthy does not believe that is happening: "It's not intrusive. It's allowing us to record nothing else than what is already legally visible to anybody who watches your car pass on a roadway."

Another concern is whether police would sell the information collected to private vendors. That was on the mind of county councilman Phil Andrews as he questioned assistant police chief Russell Hamlin during a hearing Thursday morning.

"That would undermine the public's confidence in the technology, as well as be unethical," says Andrews. "Absolutely, I asked earlier for a little bit of confidence in this so we could use it the right way. If we were to do that, the public should have no confidence in this."

Whether or not the technology compromises privacy, evidence shows that it is effective at law enforcement. Police saw that license plate readers were instrumental in locating a stolen car in the case of murdered American University accounting professor Sue Ann Marcum.

A George Mason University study show that about one-third of large police departments across the country use license plate readers.

WAMU 88.5

A Conversation With "Broad City" Co-Star Abbi Jacobson

What do Michelle Obama, Anna Wintour and Michael Jordan carry in their bags? Abbi Jacobson imagines the things you might find in her new illustrated book, "Carry This Book." We talk to the "Broad City" co-star about what you can learn from the contents of bags—and her success creating and starring in the hit Comedy Central show.

WAMU 88.5

New Approaches To Tackling Local Youth Hunger

The First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe and other regional leaders are exploring new, innovative ways to combat local food insecurity.

WAMU 88.5

What Washington Really Thinks of the Rest of America

Kojo explores the surprising findings of a Johns Hopkins survey on what D.C.'s federal workers and unelected policy makers really think of the American public.


Researchers Build 'Nightmare Machine'

An MIT project rolled out just in time for Halloween uses artificial intelligence to generate horror images.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.