Security Manufacturer Sues US State Over LPR Restrictions

By: Carlton Purvis, Published on Feb 18, 2014

LPR is the most successful video analytic in security, so successful that it is increasingly becoming ubiquitous. With a hundred million plus licenses plates being scanned annually, companies are bundling this information for data mining and tracking but this is raising serious security concerns. Now it has become a legal battle between security companies and state governments who are banning the technology.

Two LPR companies are suing the state of Utah over a 2013 law banning ALPR use outside of government agencies for law enforcement, access control or parking infractions. See the complaint here.

The companies involved are security manufacturer Vigilant Solutions and Digital Recognition Network (DRN). DRN collects LPR data for insurance agencies, banks and repo men to help identify stolen vehicles or cars that should be repossessed. It also provides this data to Vigilant, which uses the information to provide an alerting service to law enforcement.

The two companies, are suing the state of Utah over the Utah Automatic License Plate Reader System Act [link no longer available], enacted last year. The act prohibits anyone other than law enforcement and select government activities to use LPR technology. Vigilant and DRN filed a complaint saying the law violates their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

They claim that the law blocks them from “dissemination and collection of license-plate data using ALPR systems” which they see as “constitutionally protected speech.” They are seeking an injunction to block the law and allow them to continue collecting plate data.

ALPR Use in Utah

Before the law as passed DRN had business in Utah, selling 10 ALPR kits to five companies for an average of $24,000 per sale since 2010. The suit also notes that prior to the act their services provided leads in cases “39 percent of the time,” helping law enforcement locate fugitives and children.

“In many (if not all) cases, Vigilant provided this data free of charge,” the complaint says.

Free Speech

The company says the ban violates the “protections afforded commercial speech against neutral regulation because the Act (1) does not further a substantial governmental interest, (2) does not directly and materially advance a governmental interest, and (3) restricts more speech than is necessary to further the governmental interest at issue...When a statute imposes a selective ban on speech, the government must justify the distinctions and exceptions found in the statute based on its asserted rationale for regulating the speech.”

The companies also say the law hurts them by assessing penalties for them just doing their jobs.

We haven't seen any similar laws banning anyone outside of the government from using LPR outside of Utah's law and New Hamshire banning their use anywhere except toll booths [link no longer available]. While it's interesting to see citizens and legislatures taking privacy into account more often when it comes to these types of technology, it's equally as interesting to see how manufacturers will push back.

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