Assemblyman Randy Voepel

This post initially appeared in the June 28 Sacramento Report. Get the Sacramento Report delivered to your inbox.

Lawmakers asked State Auditor Elaine Howle last week to open an investigation into how law enforcement agencies use automated license plate reader technology.

Sen. Scott Wiener, who introduced the proposal, said his aim was to protect residents’ privacy and ensure their information is being used properly at a Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing Wednesday.

“When misused, this data and powerful analytics software accompanying it can be used as masked surveillance,” Wiener said.

The audit will include looking at how information collected by local law enforcement agencies is shared or can be accessed by other agencies, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Voice of San Diego previously found that the San Diego Police Department was sharing data it collected through a network of cameras that scan license plates and record the date, time and GPS location of the cars that pass them with federal agencies, including Border Patrol. SDPD has since stopped sharing the data.

The audit will hone in on four agencies, not including any in San Diego.

“Whether you believe license plate readers are a useful public safety tool or not, one must recognize the need to ensure that law enforcement is acting as responsible stewards of our confidential locational data,” Dave Maass, a senior investigative researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told lawmakers Wednesday.

Assemblyman Randy Voepel, who represents Santee, did not vote for the audit and at a one point during the hearing waved his phone around, saying privacy is dead and explaining how his wife uses his phone to track his location.

Maya Srikrishnan

Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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