Police departments throughout Tennessee are taking advantage of a new technology. It gives officers the ability to scan license plates with a device either mounted on top of a patrol car or along roads.
The technology is called automatic license plate readers. Within seconds the reader can determine, through an outside data base, if a car is stolen or if there are any warrants out for the owner of the car. Police call it an important tool in their crime-fighting arsenal.
The American Civil Liberties Union has raised a red flag. Thirty-five ACLU affiliates throughout the country, including Tennessee, have asked police and state agencies to explain how they use the readers - specifically how long the data collected is kept.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol has been using the readers since 2010. A spokeswoman for the agency told Channel 4 News, they retain license plate data for one year.
"One has to say, 'Well, why are you keeping it for more than 24 hours it would take to process that information?'" said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of Tennessee's ACLU.
Weinberg said concerns are always raised when government collects data on your whereabouts.
"Law enforcement is collecting data on where you travel, and when, and storing it in a data base, definitely the public should be concerned," said Weinberg.
Weinberg has sent letters to police departments throughout Tennessee asking for information on the readers under the Tennessee Public Records Act.
"The concern is we have this growing data base with a lot of private information," said Weinberg.
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