California's License Plate Surveillance Oversight: Round 2

Photograph of San Diego's Gaslamp sign at night with motion blurred lights underneath
Stephen Leonardi

This post contains a Privacy Action Invitation. Please send us an email if you would like to add your name in support of this effort.

In 2015, the California legislature approved regulations over automatic license plate readers (ALPR) that track the movements of California drivers. The law SB 34 mandated all agencies operating the systems notify the public of their use and take some basic actions to safeguard the data being collected.

If you want to know more about what ALPR systems do, you should head over to the EFF's  ALPR explainer. It's top notch.

In 2020, the California State Auditor reported that, of the four police-operated ALPR systems they audited, none had complied with the law. Sadly, government departments and elected leaders frequently fail to understand the importance of privacy controls, especially when it comes to mass surveillance technology. 

Illustrating the importance of privacy to leaders in San Diego's government is one of San Diego Privacy's most important goals.

SB 210, sponsored by Senator Weiner and three others, builds on the foundation of its predecessor. The proposed law is championed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who have been driving attention to weak ALPR protections for many years.

We believe that establishing basic rules around how mass surveillance systems are operated is the absolute minimum that should be done to protect the private information of those who are targeted by such systems. Unfortunately, that minimal protection is still missing in many cases, including in how ALPR systems are operated.

If you are a resident of San Diego, or any of its neighboring cities in San Diego County, and you would like to add your name to a letter urging our elected representatives to support SB 210, send us an email and we will get in touch with you.