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Belvedere police stop illegal sharing of license-plate data

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

The department had been allowing more than 200 out-of-state and federal agencies access to local driver-location records captured by the city’s cameras in violation of state law. It ended that practice amid an Ark investigation.

A pickup driving into Belvedere on Beach Road at Cove Road passes two license-plate-reading cameras affixed to the median lamppost. They’re two of six plate cameras used at the city’s entrances. (Elliot Karlan photo / For The Ark)

The Belvedere Police Department has ceased the illegal sharing of local license-plate-camera data with more than 200 out-of-state and federal agencies following an Ark investigation.

While it’s unclear how long the department had been sharing data of vehicles in Belvedere with authorities located outside California, the law barring such sharing, Senate Bill 34, was passed just three months after the city installed its cameras in July 2015 and took effect Jan. 1, 2016.

The Ark’s November inquiry grew from media reports a month prior that three Marin residents — with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union and San Francisco-based digital privacy nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation — sued Marin Sheriff Robert Doyle for sharing plate data with 424 out-of-state and 17 federal agencies, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

For privacy advocates, the harm may not come locally in how Tiburon and Belvedere police use data to catch actual criminals, but instead in how other agencies across California and the U.S. use the 99.99 percent of plate-capture data for Tiburon and Belvedere drivers who aren’t.

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