Council Recap: Police License Plate Readers Spur Privacy Concerns
Mayor, Council mull how long the city should keep data collected from police license plate readers
Discussion: Police license plate reader data storage raises privacy concerns
The mayor and council asked Rockville City Police Chief Terry Treschuk to come up with a recommendation for how long the city should keep data collected from police license plate readers after hearing reports from Rockville and Montgomery County police, an ACLU attorney and Electronic Privacy Information Center's director for Open Government on Monday.
The discussion was sparked by privacy concerns raised by Councilman Tom Moore who was concerned that Rockville’s data was being stored longer than it should. Moore is hosting a forum at City Hall 7 p.m. March 20.
Background: Rockville City Police has three license plate readers, a system implemented in 2009. The readers convert an image of a vehicle's license plate into computer-readable data. The system compares license plate numbers and letters to a "Hot List" provided by the State of Maryland and tells the police officer if there was a hit, according to city records.
These readers can scan hundreds of plates a second.
The issue: The concern is over how long the data is stored. Data from Rockville’s plate readers feed into Montgomery County’s data system, where the data is stored for a year and then archived offline indefinitely.
Montgomery County Asstistant Chief Russ Hamill said that despite what MCP’s policy states, the department is choosing not to keep the data after a year—at least for now.
“We are not retaining data longer than a year because we don't have the ability to do so,” Hamill said. “Our policy states that we can retain data for over a year, and I’ll tell you, moving forward that is our intent.”
Hamill said officers would have access, albeit highly restricted access, to the offline data.
ACLU attorney David Rocah said that license plate readers were not inherently an invasion of privacy, but he said retaining stored data from plate readers unnecessarily tracked people’s daily lives.
“There’s no need to permanently store data,” Rocah said.
Mayor and council stance: Most council members thought that retaining the data longer than a year was unreasonable, but there was no sense of whether a year or some shorter period would be more appropriate, which is why they are seeking guidance from Treschuk.
The city can choose to handle its own data storage or feed its data to the sate, which doesn’t retain it as long as the county.
Treschuk is expected to offer a recommendation at a future meeting.
In other council news:
Action: Approved the renaming of Grandin Avenue Park
Grandin Avenue Park in East Rockville will be named for the woman who founded it. Mayor and council voted unanimously to rename the half-acre park to Phyllis Kavanagh Park.
Kavanagh maintained a flower garden—what Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio described as a “flower library”—back when the park site housed a water tower. She pushed for the site to be transformed into a park when the tower was scheduled to be taken down in the late 1990s.
Action: Re-appointments to boards and commissions unanimously approved
Board of Supervisors of Elections
- Graham Johnson—Appointment as member to fill an unexpired term until Sept. 1, 2014
Cultural Arts Commission
- Liliane Blom—Reappointment as member until March, 1 2016
- Howard Faulkner—Reappointment as member until March, 1 2016
- Lynn Willis—Reappointment as member until March, 1 2016
Human Rights Commission
- David Smith—Reappointment as member until March, 1 2016
Recreation and Parks Advisory Board
- Lawrence Eason—Reappointment as member until March, 1 2016
- Katherine Savage—Reappointment as member until March, 1 2016
Sign Review Board
- Mary Lou Goehrung—Reappointment as member until March, 1 2016
- Ruth Hanessian—Reappointment as member until March, 1 2016
Editor's Note: This story has been updated since it was originally published. ACLU attorney David Rocah spoke before the Rockville City Council on Monday.