Bill deals with Big Brother and license plate scans

Mar 11 2013 - 9:09pm

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill addressing how government deals with information gained in scanning license plates has cleared the Senate.

The legislation, SB 196, imposes a nine-month limit on how long law enforcement can retain information gained through new license plate scanner technology. The measure now moves to the House for further review.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, ran the legislation after finding out law enforcement agencies are routinely scanning license plates in parking lots, in an attempt to find stolen cars, and the information is retained by the agency.

"Let's be clear, Big Brother is out there watching you," Weiler said in introducing the legislation.

His bill originally asked for law enforcement to delete the information after six months, but that was amended to nine months in the bill passed Monday.

The bill passed 28-0, but not everyone was comfortable with the discussion.

"This is a murky area. I'm uncomfortable with them taking this information. It's with a deep swallow I vote yes," Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City said. "I hope we'll be able to work this out and narrow the scope of what is being done."

Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, was uncomfortable knowing the information is being stored at all.

"I'm shocked and alarmed, quite frankly, that this is that widespread," Madsen said.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, pointed out the information can be used to prove innocence as well as guilt.

Weiler said the bill deals exclusively with the harvested data. He described it as a starting point on how the information should be dealt with. He predicted it will be a matter that future legislative bodies will have to discuss.

As many as 47 police agencies statewide use the scanning technology, and there is currently no state law governing the use of the information.

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