B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has tabled a report that's highly critical of broad police collection of data from licence plate cameras.

Broad police use of licence plate scans hit in privacy ruling

Delete data on regular drivers who aren't suspects, commissioner recommends

Municipal police that use licence plate-reading cameras to pull over suspected law-breakers have been told they can’t also use or collect data on the movements of other motorists the system detects but who aren’t matched to any policing “alert” list.

B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham ruled Victoria Police must change their practices to comply with provincial privacy law and the decision is expected to affect other forces using Automated Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) systems.

More than 40 camera-equipped police cars in B.C. rapidly scan parked or passing vehicles against policing databases, typically in search of prohibited drivers, motorists who are wanted by police and stolen or uninsured cars.

The commissioner’s findings apply to “non-hit” data where cars not flagged in a police database are also detected and their time and location recorded.

Denham said she is “deeply concerned” about the privacy implications after investigating complaints the technology could be used as a surveillance tool.

“Collecting personal information for traffic enforcement and identifying stolen vehicles does not extend to retaining data on the law-abiding activities of citizens just in case it may be useful in the future,” Denham said.

The RCMP, who manage the ALPR database in the province, delete the non-hit data within 30 minutes of receiving it from municipal forces.

But Mounties told Denham they are considering retaining it for investigative purposes.

“The indiscriminate nature of this automated collection of personal information is extremely problematic,” Denham concluded in her report.

“The retention and subsequent use of non-hit and obsolete-hit personal information would result in the creation of an expansive database that describes the whereabouts of many British Columbians as they go about their routine daily activities.”

She recommended municipal police immediately delete non-hit vehicle identifications but noted her office has no power to direct the RCMP to comply.

B.C. Civil Liberties Association policy director Micheal Vonn applauded the ruling.

“This was a classic example of galloping function creep where information gathered for one purpose – the perfectly legitimate search for stolen vehicles – very quickly becomes how we just gather this information for the sake of having it,” she said.

Vonn said British police have used licence plate scanners to first identify protesters arriving at a demonstration and then later use the data to intercept or harass the same people heading to subsequent protests.

Taken to extremes, critics argue, authorities could use ALPR to track where union leaders, protest organizers and journalists go and who they meet.

RCMP have dismissed such notions but said they could envision using ALPR non-hit data to look back in time to see whether a suspect’s vehicle was or wasn’t near a crime scene.

Vonn said the undeniable value for law enforcement doesn’t justify police using the technology on everyone for “dragnet data capture.”

Just Posted

Serial killer Robert Pickton transferred to Quebec: victim’s family

Pickton was convicted in December 2007 of six counts of second degree murder

Illness and injury leaving many Abbotsford firefighters unable to work

More than 20 firefighters missed time due to long-term illness or injury last year

Mouat’s Benning signs with UFV wrestling

Benning one of 10 new recruits inked for the fall

Donation of more than $20,000 supports Shine On Legacy Fund

Fund created in memory of Abbotsford Police Const. John Davidson

UPDATE: Fire destroys Chilliwack restaurant

Popular Banners Restaurant goes up in flames Sunday morning.

VIDEO: Canadian toddler caught practising hockey skills in crib

Eli Graveline is getting praise from far and wide as the internet freaks out of cute throwback video

Man facing charges after baby food stolen from Richmond doorstep

A 40-year-old man is facing several charges

Man shot dead in Surrey ID’d as hockey coach and father of two

Murder of Paul Bennett – a respected Peace Arch Hospital worker and ‘champion of sport’ – ‘not random’

10 of TransLink’s most used SkyTrain routes

TransLink released its 2017 Transit Network Performance Review, offering snapshot of ridership

Serial speeder clocked going 138 km/hr in 90 zone

Driver had their vehicle impounded

Canadian Syrian children’s choir not to attend festival over fears about U.S. travel

Many kids are recent immigrants from countries covered by Trump travel ban

VIDEO: Plane crashes in Langley farm field (updated)

Plane lost power shortly after takeoff, RCMP told

Most Read