State representative works to better protect citizen’s privacy

COLUMBUS, Ga.- Representative John Pezold says the license plate readers found on some law enforcement cars are a great technology for easily nabbing criminals while police and deputies are patrolling the roads. However, Pezold, whose district includes Troup, Harris and Muscogee Counties, says he is concerned the new technology has the potential for criminals to take advantage of the camera’s data.

He says currently there is no law on the books protecting the innocent citizen when it comes to these tag readers. Pezold says he is proposing a bill that will better protect state citizens.

Pezold says the automated license plate recognition system, also known as ALPR, is fairly new to the law enforcement scene. He says the cameras sit on the vehicles and scan the car’s tags within a close vicinity in order to target criminals. Pezold tells News 3 he is concerned with where the information is being stored. Pezold also says it’s scary because there is no law on the books for how long officials can store the information. What really infuriates Pezold is the fact the data is not private. He says once the ALPR scans the tag information it then is available for anyone to acquire it with an open records request.

He says stalkers could easily use the sensitive information to prey on their victims.

“Most violent crimes are committed by people the victim already knows so all you would have to do is know someone’s license plate number and file an open records request and boom you know exactly where that person goes and when they go there,” says Pezold.

This district 133 representative also says he has fears hackers could figure out how to breach all of the information. He says it is a treasure trove for criminals and something must be done to better protect the database.

Pezold even says he’s been paying attention to this issue on a national level and other law enforcement agencies across the country are known to sell the sensitive information to repossession companies.

He tells News 3 he believes his proposed bill could easily patch up this security crack.

In Pezold’s proposed legislation he says after ninety days the information collected from the tag readers would be purged if the person it was collected from has no criminal record.

He says he will not sit by and wait until something tragic happens to make a difference. He says writing up this bill is all about being proactive.

“We don’t need to wait until there’s a problem to get a legislative fix. This is a common sense measure and incredibly reasonable for us to say if you are not suspected of a crime the government and the police department should purge this date from their systems because you are innocent,” says Pezold.

He says the cameras are still too expensive for most law enforcement units in the state to put them on every vehicle. However, he believes as technology improves the price on the gadgets will drop and make them more accessible. He says it’s only a matter of time before every law enforcement vehicle in Georgia will be outfitted with these small data collecting cameras. It’s exactly why he wants to get this legislation passed as soon as possible.

If the bill is passed Pezold says it would be officially put on the books in July.

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