South Carolina’s Use Of License Plate Cameras Expands

The growing use of automated license plate readers (ALPRs) by law enforcement agencies and private companies in South Carolina has raised questions about privacy and the lack of regulations surrounding the technology. Flock Safety a nationwide company that sells cameras to cities and private entities has come under scrutiny for its extensive network of cameras which the ACLU warns is creating an “AI-driven mass-surveillance system.”

South Carolina’s Department of Transportation recently discovered more than 200 unpermitted Flock Safety cameras on state roads prompting Transportation Secretary Christy Hall to express concern about the lack of public policy regarding their use and the privacy implications of the data they collect. In response to ongoing litigation and the regulatory void the department has halted approval of new license plate readers on state roads.

Rep. Todd Rutherford D-Richland criticized ALPRs as an invasion of privacy rights arguing that the government should not have access to this data. Paul Bowers with the ACLU emphasized that people do not expect their movements to be tracked simply for driving on public roads.

Despite these concerns Flock Safety maintains that its cameras provide objective evidence necessary for investigations and solving crimes. The company asserts that it does not share or sell data and that evidence captured is deleted within 30 days. However critics argue that independent investigators should be allowed to examine how the company’s artificial intelligence works.

As the debate continues elected officials are being urged to research and establish policies that balance public safety with the protection of civil liberties.