Government’s use of technology to keep track of citizens is advancing exponentially, and Oregon Senator Tim Knopp believes we need to take a step back and evaluate what this means. Tim Knopp is sponsoring three bi-partisan bills in the current Legislative Session (SB 639, SB 640, SB 641) that would curtail government’s ability to store and use information against Oregonians.
In particular, Senator Knopp wants to target so-called “license plate readers,” which allow law enforcement to electronically read the plate of every passing car, truck or motorcycle. While this ability has some usefulness for the immediate interdiction of a car whose owner may have outstanding warrants, or in an “Amber Alert” situation, Knopp is concerned about what happens when that’s not the case. Current law allows law enforcement agencies to keep indefinitely information about where and when a vehicle passed a certain point. Over time, these agencies could build up a “profile” of an individual driver – where they drive, what time of day they drive, what day of the week they drive – essentially mapping a private citizen’s daily routine.
Although law enforcement believes storing this data may provide evidence to help them catch lawbreakers at a later time, Knopp notes, “We’ve caught people before” this technology was available. Some states have been exploring 2 year time-frames for data storage, but Knopp wants to force the immediate deletion of any information gathered on a citizen for which there’s no immediate probable cause to retain it.
Bills SB 639, SB 640 and SB 641 are the primary vehicles, and Senator Tim Knopp is joined in sponsorship by Senator Chip Shields, Representative Jennifer Williamson and Representative John Huffman. The Oregon ACLU has also expressed support for the Legislation.