Privacy advocates scored a major victory in Boston this week when the city’s police department announced it would indefinitely suspend its use of automated license plate readers. The 14 devices currently in use let the BPD scan as many as four million vehicles a year, compiling the resulting date, time, and GPS coordinates into a massive database of private citizens’ movements around the city.
The Boston Police Department has indefinitely suspended its use of high-tech scanners that automatically check whether drivers have outstanding parking tickets, lapsed insurance or other violations after a Globe investigation raised serious privacy concerns. The police inadvertently released to the Globe the license plate numbers of more than 68,000 vehicles that had tripped alarms on automated license plate readers over a six-month period. Many of the vehicles were scanned dozens of times in that period alone.