News / Ottawa

Licence scanners: privacy chief wants Ottawa police to work with her

Ontario's privacy commissioner is reaching out to Ottawa Police in hopes the force will work with her office should they decide to use license plate scanners.

Dr. Ann Cavoukian said Tuesday her office has worked with a number of forces, including the Ontario Provincial Police, on ensuring law-abiding citizen's privacy is not infringed upon by automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) technology. Each automatic license plate recognition unit costs $25,000.

"The majority of license plates (belong to) law-abiding citizens. Less than two per cent relate to individuals who have a legitimate reason to be caught," Cavoukian said.

"If you've broken the law, by all means, you've forfeited your privacy ... but most of us driving on the road are law-abiding citizens going about our daily business."

Cavoukian was responding to news Tuesday that the Ottawa Police Service had completed a three-month test of ALPR technology, which allows police cruisers to automatically record license plate numbers and flag drivers with infractions.

The technology is currently employed by the Ontario Provincial Police, some RCMP detachments and a number of other Ontario municipal forces.

Data from the test is still being analyzed, according to Insp. Mike Callaghan, and he said the OPS has not decided if it will adopt the technology.

Cavoukian wants to work with the force, should they decide to go forward with ALPR, to ensure information collected from law-abiding motorists is quickly disposed of.

Callaghan said the system purges non-flagged data every 20 minutes.

"We take privacy laws very, very seriously," said Callaghan.

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