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Information from License Plate Scanners

There was a time when a license plate simply identified a car, its owner and, in many cases, if it was on the road legally. But now, with advancing technology, it's much more—and a lot of people don't like it.  

Recent published reports indicate that police departments are using license plate scanners without the public’s knowledge—and even when people haven't committed an infraction. 

Lawmakers are trying to decide exactly what police departments and other agencies can do with that information.

Al Alborn is not just a concerned citizen. He has a background in Army intelligence and knows what these readers can do. He says every time a plate is scanned, it creates a virtual dot that captures a piece of a person's life by tracking locations.

While he says these "dots" can help solve crimes, he questions which data are collected and how long they should be held, especially since they’re shared with other government agencies. Delegate Rich Anderson says part of the problem is a “gray area” in Virginia, so he's mulling over amending the state constitution.

Both men say this is only the start of more advances that will dig into private lives. It's also why several lawmakers will introduce privacy-protection bills that address illegal searches and seizures and the use of drone technology.

Tommie McNeil is a State Capitol reporter who has been covering Virginia and Virginia politics for more than a decade. He originally hails from Maryland, and also doubles as the evening anchor for 1140 WRVA in Richmond.
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