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Bill looks to put rules on automated license plate reader usage

HARRISBURG, P.A. --- A bill making its way to the Pennsylvania house floor is looking to calm motorist privacy concerns.

House Bill 1811, sponsored by republican representative Greg Rothman and democratic representative Robert Matzie, hopes to put rules and regulation on the use of automated license plate readers by government agencies.

The House Transportation Committee unanimously approved the bipartisan measure, 23-0, on Monday afternoon.

Rothman said he hopes to get it signed into law this session since the commonwealth currently has no legislation addressing their use.

"The technology, it exists, they're being used but there's no restrictions or regulations. This is a civil liberties bill that respects the fact law enforcement needs to use this technology to solve crimes but that the citizens of Pennsylvania have a right to have some privacy," said Rothman.

Some law enforcement agencies, such as the Upper Allen Township police department, have already made the transition to using the readers.

In light of that, Rothman said he hopes to put some rules in place as more government agencies choose to use it.

"I'm cognizant that we don't want big brother watching our every move and motorists have the right to know what's going to happen with this data," said Rothman.

He said the legislation would require an agency to create a policy, a training program and ensure proper use if they choose to add it.

Agencies would be allowed to hold any collected data for a year before they're required to delete it.

Joseph Regan, chairman of the legislative committee of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the bill has the support of law enforcement.

"It provides for training, usage, disposal of sensitive information that we already have access to now, but now with the technology that's out there, it makes it so much easier for our officers on the street," said Regan.

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union said they hope the bill requires agencies to delete unused data quickly while also limiting the use to suspected vehicles or on-going investigations.

Regan said they're confident any data will be handled and deleted, properly.

"There's a penalty written into the law as a misdemeanor, if you violate the policy of disposing the information," said Regan.

Rothman said the full house floor could vote on the bill as soon as Wednesday.

If not, he said it would have to wait until January when the session restarts.

Regan said hopes to get grant funding for the license plate readers, due to its expensive costs.

Rothman says they're open to discussing possible funding solutions.