The Marin County Sheriff illegally shares the sensitive location information of millions of drivers with out-of-state and federal agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The Sheriff uses automated license plate readers (ALPRs)—high-speed cameras mounted on street poles or squad cars—to scan license plates and record the date, time, and location of each scan. This data can paint a detailed picture of the private lives of Marin County residents, including where they live and work, visit friends or drop their children off at school, and when they attend religious services or protests.
Last week, EFF filed a new lawsuit on behalf of three immigrant rights activists against Sheriff Bob Doyle and Marin County for violating two California laws that protect immigrants and motorists’ privacy. Our co-counsel are the ACLU Foundations of Northern California, Southern California, and San Diego & Imperial Counties, and attorney Michael Risher. We seek a court order prohibiting the Sheriff from sharing ALPR data with out-of-state and federal agencies.
The Marin Sheriff’s ALPRs scan thousands of license plates each month. That sensitive data, including photos of the vehicle and sometimes its drivers and passengers, is stored in a database. The Sheriff permits over 400 out-of-state and 18 federal agencies, including CBP and ICE, to run queries of full or partial license plates against information the Sheriff has collected.
This data sharing particularly impacts the safety and privacy of immigrants, communities of color, and religious minorities. Like many other surveillance technologies, ALPRs have a history of disproportionately impacting marginalized communities. ICE has used ALPR data to detain and deport immigrant community members. NYPD used ALPRs to scan license plates near mosques.
The Sheriff’s sharing of ALPR data to entities outside of California violates state law. S.B. 34, enacted in 2015, prohibits California law enforcement agencies from sharing ALPR data with entities outside of California. Moreover, the California Values Act (S.B. 54), enacted in 2018, limits the use of local resources to assist federal immigration enforcement, including the sharing of personal information.