HB 2566 would impose round-the-clock camera surveillance on the traveling public
- The state is seeking to expand license plate recording and tracking.
- The Washington State Patrol can use the tracking data to identify stolen vehicles.
- WSDOT can use the data for determining trip origin and destination, average speed and traffic counts.
- Use of this data could be used to violate civil rights.
Traveling in your car in Washington state today, you can be assured that the government is not filming and tracking your every move. While we have some toll and red-light cameras, along with a couple of speed-zone cameras in Seattle, the majority of the time you travel you are un-observed by the government.
Under a proposed bill in Olympia, however, that could soon change.
House Bill 2566 would give the state new surveillance powers to track your license plate as you pass cameras on the side of the road. The sponsors of the new legislation intend to help the state identify vehicles that either WSDOT wants to monitor or law enforcement is looking for. In the case of law enforcement, this is a laudable goal as everyone would want the return of a stolen vehicle. However, blanket surveillance is a slippery slope and pits privacy against convenience and safety.
House Bill 2566 provides for general data collection and tracking through the regulation of automated license plate recognition systems (ALPRS), including a provision for matching vehicles that have been added previously to a watch list. This includes stolen vehicles, parking time violations and toll charges. It also includes vehicles associated with people who have felony warrants and individuals for whom there is probable cause to believe they have committed a felony.
This bill also restricts the use of ALPRS for anything other than what is allowed under the act, so that information obtained in violation of the act is not admissible in court and sets out annual reporting requirements for any agency that uses ALPRS. The annual report must include how many license plates were scanned, the number of matches that resulted in an arrest and prosecution, and the number of stolen vehicles and license plates that were recovered as a result of the system, and other requirements.