State Scraps License Plate Surveillance System

A glitch caused inaccurate data to be recorded for more than five years.

Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, Boston.
Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, Boston.

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts has ended the use of a controversial license plate surveillance system after discovering a glitch that caused inaccurate data to be recorded for more than five years, according to a report obtained by The Boston Globe.

The inaccuracies were found in a network of mounted, fixed high-speed cameras installed by Massachusetts State Police that took photos of license plates of passing vehicles.

The state’s Executive Office of Public Safety and Security issued a memo Wednesday that said the problem was discovered Nov. 12 by state police officials reviewing data collected.

The officials said the dates and time stamps for some of the entries were inaccurate.

The data collected included location, date and time and was used for criminal investigations and in some cases to find suspects in real time, without obtaining warrants or court orders.

"Like with facial recognition and other newer forms of surveillance, there’s too many risks that something will go wrong if this is left entirely to the executive branch of the government to run in secret," said Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. “We have to remember that these technologies are not perfect and they are never going to be perfect.”

State officials declined to directly answer questions or provide more details.

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