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LETTERS: Finding balance between privacy and law enforcement needs

In regard to the story “License plate readers used all over county,” (July 25, 1A), I have no problem with an officer running my tag when he or she is behind me in traffic.

My registration is current, I have insurance, and my car is not stolen. If someone else does not have current registration, insurance, is wanted, or has a stolen car, I want the officer to know to get them off the road as a matter of public safety.

This was done manually in the past, or still by officers without a patrol car equipped with the license plate readers. I’m sure that with his or her other duties, officer friendly can only run a fraction of the plates encountered on a shift manually.

Given that, I have no problem with automatic license plate readers equipped on patrol vehicles. That seems like it will lead to more stolen cars, wanted drivers, uninsured vehicles, and unregistered vehicles identified and taken off the road. That helps protect me and the general public which is the purpose of our law enforcement agencies.

For me, where the overreaching by the government, and a violation of my privacy is, is in saving the data from all of the tags that are run. From all of the tags run each day that are valid, what possible purpose could there be in keeping that data? Gwinnett County police says it has a five-year retention policy for the data.

Perhaps the data could be subpoenaed by anyone involved in a civil law suit or by an open records request. Do you want your ex-spouse to be able to pull every time your tag was hit by a reader and have to answer questions by his or her lawyer in court about each and every instance? Imagine when every patrol car is outfitted with a reader — think of the number of tags run on a daily basis. The length the data is retained is an internal policy for each law enforcement department, so no input from the public, or even our elected representatives, is needed for the policy to be changed to a longer period of time.

Snellville says its readers are generally used for immediate enforcement, and they only save data for 90 days. That makes sense, and that does not seem unreasonable, balancing the need to enforce the law, while not overreaching to the point of having the ability to track the day to day travel patterns of law abiding citizens.

The balance balance between privacy and law enforcement is something we have lost in America. Our country was founded on rugged individualism, and our Constitution enshrines our right to privacy in many ways, especially by protecting individuals from overreaching by the government.

Somehow, the citizens of this country seem continually acquiesce in trading more security for less privacy and freedoms.

Lucas Harsh,

Lawrenceville