Privacy SOS

Massachusetts officials plan location tracking database, but we can stop it

Did you know that police throughout Massachusetts and the nation are tracking your moves as you drive around, minding your own business? The technology involved is relatively new to the United States, but it is spreading like wildfire among police departments and federal agencies. Automatic license plate readers are incredibly powerful tools that enable the mass, retroactive, warrantless tracking of motorists — that is, unless we do something about it.

Towards that end, the ACLU has today released a breathtaking report describing how police are using license plate readers nationwide. The findings are nothing less than stunning, and pull back the curtain on a huge surveillance system being developed in the shadows.

Here in Massachusetts, we have particularly disconcerting problems related to the technology. Namely, the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security has plans to compile as much license plate (read: location tracking) data on motorists as possible, into one centralized database. The possibilities for abuse of such a system are endless, particularly given that it is being developed behind a wall of state secrecy. The ACLU of Massachusetts has been trying to gain access to information about this planned database for over two years. Thus far we have received zero information about its details or implementation, or any rules that might prevent us from being pervasively tracked as we go about our day to day lives.

That's unacceptable in a democracy. Tell your state legislators to support the License Plate Privacy Act, which would ban the pooling of innocent motorist travel information, and require that police delete captured data within a reasonable amount of time. 

The NSA spying revelations shocked the conscience of our nation, but it isn't just the military that's spying on all of us. Our local and state police departments are in on it, too. Take action now to stop it.

You can also call your elected officials via the State House switchboard at 617-722-2000. Call them now and demand that they support the License Plate Privacy Act, which is currently before the Transportation Committee. We can be both safe and free in Massachusetts.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.