A decision to purchase automatic license plate scanners was delayed last week in York, PA, as questions of the scanners' effectiveness and infringement on civil liberties arose. The city council voted three to two to refer the ordinance to committee for more discussion.
"We need assurances to what will be done with the data," said Manuel Gomez, city council candidate and York resident. Gomez expressed worries that the data could be shared with private companies and governmental organizations that would use it to track or investigate activists and other law-abiding people.
These worries are not unfounded, and were shared by Brookline, MA, whose Board of Selectmen recently rejected state funding for license plate scanners. The scanners are automatic, which means by their nature they invade the privacy of residents because they collect data without any basis of suspicion.
Gomez in his comments to the council pointed this out:
Do you want to live in a community where the police now have these devices and they have the ability to assume that everybody is guilty until proven innocent, which is the transverse of what this country is really about and what [it] has been traditionally?
The York County Libertarian Party raised opposition to the purchase proposal because of concerns of privacy issues.