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.

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

Xauni de Figeuiroa of Abbotsford has been selected to attend a virtual space camp hosted by the Canadian Space Agency at the end of July.
Abbotsford student selected to attend virtual space camp

Xauni de Figeuiroa among 52 youth selected from across Canada

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

A program of the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation enables patients to thank their health-care workers.
Fraser Valley program enables patients to say thanks to their health-care workers

Philip Harris Grateful Patient Program offered through health care foundation

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Most Read