Under a new policy, Rockville will send data from its license plate readers directly to a state database, bypassing county police.
The new policy is intended to limit how long law enforcement officials have access to data from the readers, or LPRs, which scan license plates on passing cars to check them against a “hot list” for things such as outstanding warrants or stolen vehicles. County police had said they would store data permanently if technology allowed, but some privacy advocates said they were concerned the data could be misused in the future by officials who wanted to track residents’ movements through their cars if it was stored indefinitely.
Councilmember Tom Moore, who brought the city’s data retention policy up for discussion, said he was delighted with the city’s new policy. He said making sure the data is deleted after a set period of time is a good way to protect residents’ privacy.
“The point is, it’s not a database that’s just getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” Moore said. “We’re not going to have this vast permanent database of everyone’s whereabouts.”
Under the new policy, Rockville will store its LPR data on the in-car devices for 30 days and then delete it. The Maryland fusion center deletes its data after a year unless there is reason to believe it will become evidence in a specific investigation, according to Mayor and Council documents.
Rockville Police Chief Terry Treschuk, who recommended the new policy, said Montgomery County police can still access Rockville’s LPR data through the state if they need it for an investigation.
Montgomery County police currently keep data from their LPRs and from agencies that share data with them for a year, but police have said they want to store it longer offline to potentially help them solve cold cases. The department does not currently have the technology to store the data permanently while limiting access as it would like, however.