By Ali Winston (Center for Investigative Reporting) – Green, a Muni driver and 50-year-old San Francisco resident, had been pulled over and detained because her car was mistakenly identified as a stolen vehicle by an automatic license-plate reader the city had installed on its police cars. The officers did not confirm her license plate with their dispatcher.
“It was a nightmare,” Green said of the traffic stop. “I had no idea what was going on or why they were treating me like a criminal – I just hope that never happens to anyone else.”
Five years later, as Green’s lawsuit over the incident goes to a civil trial this year, the use of license-plate readers has emerged as one of the biggest concerns among privacy advocates. Car-tracking technology is becoming ubiquitous in cities around the United States, and the types of data collected and analyzed with the help of license-plate readers is expanding into other realms of personal information.
Editor’s note: If you haven’t read The Declaration’s newly launched investigation into the Philadelphia Police Department’s own license plate reader program, you can find it here.