Info is routinely collected from your license plate and there’s little you can do

Reporter: Chris Cifatte
Published: Updated:

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Cameras on road signs are collecting your license plate number with the date, time, location and speed of your car then storing the information in a database for as many as three years.

The license-plate-tracking cameras exist in all three coastal counties in Southwest Florida and are part of a program that helps law enforcement agencies find wanted criminals.

In Collier County there are 10 tracking cameras that transmit information that is stored for six months. Charlotte County has three cameras. Lee County authorities would not comment on the exact number of cameras they have on road signs, only saying they have “multiple” and that information is stored for three years.

Dave Maas, an investigative researcher with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, worries that the privacy of citizens is being compromised by the information that the cameras collect.

“It can determine what patterns you drive in. So our organization has been very concerned about the privacy impacts of this,” he said.

Data from the cameras could be used to track a driver’s every move, he argues. In Oakland, California an animated map showed the routes taken by the most photographed license plates. Police used the cameras in 2013 to determine the mailing addresses of men they suspected were soliciting prostitutes in Sanford. They then sent the men letters.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office has made at least two arrests using the cameras.

But Maas said law enforcement does not simply target criminals. They sometimes monitor people they think might become criminals, he said.

Lee County residents concerned about their privacy will not have any luck finding the information collected by the sheriff’s office. Fort Myers attorney David Fineberg said laws limit a person’s privacy in public places.

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