St. Paul, MN – August 31, 2012 – While the ACLU and privacy rights advocates are already up in arms over the use and application of License Plate Recognition (LPR) data, they seem even more irate that a Minnesota buy here pay here dealer can purchase the data gathered by the police for a mere $4.
When Jake Ingebrigtson, co-owner of a South St. Paul car dealer, “Car and Credit Connection”, sought information on four cars after reading in the Star Tribune that data captured by license plate cameras is public and retained for one year in Minneapolis, he applied for the information on several vehicles he’s been looking for to repossess for the past four months.
Two weeks after his information request, Ingebrigtson received a hit back on one of the vehicles where it had been spotted on numerous occasions and drove to the location. Fifteen minutes after locating the car on the street, Ingebrigtson’s repo man repossessed it.
Ingebrigtson was quoted as saying “It was comical. I’ve been looking for this car for two months,” it was clear they were “hiding the car there.”
The company had previously visited the owner’s house in St. Paul, only to find a “for rent” sign in the window. “They fall off the face of the Earth,” Ingebrigtson said of people who stop making payments. “They won’t return your calls.”
The city of Minneapolis deploys a reported 10 license plate readers, eight of them mounted on police cars and traffic enforcement vehicles, that continuously scan thousands of license plates daily storing their locations with a reported 4.9 million captured so far in 2012. Their primary use is to help police identify wanted vehicles in real time.
The ACLU and some privacy advocates fear that data could eventually be used for more sinister purposes and lawmakers are considering new statutes that could reclassify license plate data to keep the information from being used by the public.