Keeping our personal information private has become increasingly complex and outdated privacy laws do little to protect us from unnecessary government intrusion. The ACLU is working to revise privacy laws to reflect emerging technologies in the digital age. Government policies should be clear, uniform, and protect privacy rights, courts should require a warrant when law enforcement agencies request personal digital information, and law-makers should revise outdated electronic privacy laws.

Automatic License Plate Readers

Automatic license plate readers (ALPR) snap photos of every car that passes – thousands of plates per minute. Each photo is stamped with the date, time, and GPS location. Law enforcement agencies across the country have rapidly expanded their use of ALPRs, collecting millions of records on local drivers, most of who are not suspected of any wrong-doing.

As a result, enormous databases of innocent motorists’ location information are growing rapidly. This information is often retained for years or even indefinitely, with few or no restrictions to protect privacy rights.

Last summer, the ACLU of Arizona joined 38 affiliates to send public records requests to almost 600 local and state police departments, as well as other state and federal agencies, to obtain information on how these agencies use license plate readers. Responses from agencies around the state revealed that millions of records on Arizona drivers are being collected, stored, and shared without adequate written policies to protect innocent drivers’ privacy. And Arizona drivers are not alone. A summary of the responses, an interactive map, slideshow and report are available at aclu.org/alpr.

Cell Phone Location Tracking

Government officials should not be able to gather information from your cell phone to track your location or look through your phone and text records without a good reason, and you should know when your information is being shared.

In August 2011, ACLU affiliates from across the country filed 381 public records requests to find out when, why and how law enforcement agencies are using cell phone location data to track Americans. The 12 requests we filed with Arizona law enforcement agencies revealed that there is no uniform policy for collecting location information in Arizona and none of the responding agencies provided any written policy for storing location information.

We shouldn’t have to pay for new technology with our privacy. Demand a privacy upgrade to keep your personal information safe.

Read more about the ACLU’s national campaign to protect your digital privacy.

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