BART revisits license plate readers at station parking lots

The BART Board of Directors may approve Thursday a plan to install hundreds of Automated License Plate Readers at the transit authority’s parking lots all over the Bay Area.

A staff report released last week says the addition of the reader is intended to promote safety and instill the “confidence of the public while using BART’s public transportation system.”

But privacy advocates in the East Bay have long questioned the use of the readers by local enforcement for, among many reasons, its potential to capture information of individuals on a wholesale basis.

How long the data is stored and by whom has also been a great concern. Fears of collaboration with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also worried privacy and immigrant groups in the past.

Under the plan, BART’s license plate reader data would be stored on servers at a U.S. Homeland Security fusion center named the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) in San Francisco and be retained for 30 days, the report said.

“The Administrator of the data collection, the NCRIC will not share information with ICE or any agency conducting immigration enforcement or removal operations,” the reports adds. “Information is only shared with other law enforcement possessing a need and legal right to know.”

BART could also later utilize the license plate readers to track parking fee collection, similar to the San Francisco International Airport, according to the staff report.

An attempt by the BART Board of Directors  to deploy license plate readers was made in 2016 with a pilot program at the MacArthur BART station in Oakland.

BART board directors rescinded its approval following public concerns, but not before the MacArthur station license plate readers continued to upload scans to Homeland Security for a year, the Mercury News later reported.

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