South Carolina Lawmakers Grapple With Regulating License Plate Cameras Amid Privacy Abuse

The widespread use of license plate cameras by law enforcement and private companies in South Carolina has sparked a debate about the need for regulations to protect privacy rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has raised concerns about Flock Safety, a nationwide company that sells cameras to cities and private entities, warning that it is creating an “AI-driven mass-surveillance system.”

Rep. Todd Rutherford D-Richland criticized the use of automated license plate readers (ALPRs) telling The Post and Courier “ALPRs sound innocuous but they’re an invasion into our privacy rights. The government shouldn’t have access to this.” Paul Bowers with the ACLU echoed these sentiments stating “None of us expect that our movements will be tracked simply for driving on a public road. Unfortunately, that is the reality.”

The concerns were amplified after the South Carolina Department of Transportation discovered more than 200 unpermitted Flock Safety cameras on state roads. Transportation Secretary Christy Hall noted the lack of public policy regarding the use of these devices and the privacy implications of the data they collect.

In response to ongoing litigation and the absence of regulations, the department has paused approval of new license plate readers on state roads. But cities, counties and private property owners can still install new cameras, according to Flock Safety spokesman Connor Metz.

As the debate over balancing public safety and privacy rights continues lawmakers are being called upon to establish policies that protect civil liberties while allowing law enforcement to utilize technology to solve crimes.

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