License Plate Camera Abuse In South Carolina Show Need For Regulation

The increasing deployment of license plate cameras by law enforcement agencies and private companies in South Carolina has raised concerns about privacy and the lack of regulations governing the technology. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has warned that Flock Safety a nationwide company selling cameras to cities and private entities is creating an “AI-driven mass-surveillance system.”

Paul Bowers with the ACLU emphasized that people do not expect their movements to be tracked simply for driving on public roads stating “Unfortunately that is the reality.” Rep. Todd Rutherford D-Richland also criticized the use of automated license plate readers (ALPRs) calling them an invasion of privacy rights and arguing that the government should not have access to this data.

The concerns were heightened after the South Carolina Department of Transportation discovered more than 200 unpermitted Flock Safety cameras on state roads. Transportation Secretary Christy Hall expressed concern about the lack of public policy regarding their use and the privacy implications of the data they collect.

In response to ongoing litigation and the absence of regulations the department has halted approval of new license plate readers on state roads. However Flock Safety maintains that its cameras provide objective evidence necessary for investigations and solving crimes asserting that it does not share or sell data and that evidence captured is deleted within 30 days.

As the debate continues elected officials are being urged to research and establish policies that balance the need for public safety with the protection of civil liberties.