License plate reader data could be potential hacking target

The Oakland Police Department (OPD) said it will now only hold data gathered with its license plate reader (LPR) devices for six months, which could prove beneficial to the privacy of the vehicle owne
The Oakland Police Department (OPD) said it will now only hold data gathered with its license plate reader (LPR) devices for six months, which could prove beneficial to the privacy of the vehicle owne

The Oakland Police Department (OPD) said it will only hold data gathered with its Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) devices for six months, which could prove beneficial to the privacy of the vehicle owners who came across the device's path.

The OPD said it had been using an old computer with an 80GB hard drive running Windows XP, but once the hard drive filled it no longer had space to gather additional data so the decision was made to curtail the program, according to a report from Ars Technica. Prior to April 2015 that had been no time limit.

While the reason behind limiting data collection in this case might be comedic and not based on a privacy issue, it could prove beneficial to those whose plate information was collected, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The EFF has come out against the use of ALPRs on several fronts. The organization has come out against LPR-gathered data saying the longer ALPR data is retained, the more it reveals about the lives of drivers and the more chance it will be compromised or misused.

“ALPR data can reveal visits to the doctor's office, political demonstrations, and places of worship, while only a small portion of the data collected vehicle registration issues or criminal activity, the EFF said in an online statement.

The computer in question in Oakland was secure, OPD Public Information Officer Johnna Watson told SCMagazine.com in a Wednesday email correspondence.

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