Andrej Safaric via Shutterstock
Electronic toll gantry (Andrej Safaric via Shutterstock)

HARTFORD, CT — The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut wants to make sure that data gathered by any future electronic tolling system on state highways isn’t sold or used by the government to track down undocumented immigrants.

ACLU Executive Director David McGuire asked for a meeting with state Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker to talk about potential “serious privacy issues” that come along with electronic tolls. The meeting was granted and will occur next month.

“Should an electronic tolling system be developed in our state, it will most likely use automatic license plate readers (ALPR’s), which are cameras that can scan and record thousands of license plates per minute. When an ALPR system captures an image of a license plate, it also tags each file with a time, date, and GPS location of the photograph,” McGuire wrote last week in a letter to Redeker.

That means the government can track where someone has gone, how fast they are going, where they are going, and who visits certain locations, raising serious First and Fourth Amendment concerns, according to McGuire.

He said they would like the department to get rid of the information as soon as they send out the bill to drivers who don’t have an EZ pass.

He said there’s no reason for the state to keep a license plate scan for more than 48 hours.

“It’s a use tax, so there’s no reason to keep the scan data after billing the person,” McGuire said.

McGuire said there’s a concern that if the information is stored then someone could reconstruct the movements of a driver over weeks, months, or years. He said it could open the door to retroactive government surveillance of “innocent people without warrant, without probable case, and without any form of judicial oversight.”

Earlier this year, The Verge reported that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement had contracted with Vigilant Solutions to provide license plate reader information. It’s the same company the Connecticut Capitol Chiefs of Police Association contracted with to provide the region’s license plate reader database.

McQuire said that could leave “immigrants in Connecticut vulnerable to surveillance and targeting by ICE.”

“In an effort to prevent the state from violating the civil liberties of people traveling in Connecticut, the Department of Transportation must consider ways in which electronic tolling system data is collected, retained, and shared, including whether data can be sold to for-profit companies or whether cameras can be used for speed enforcement,” McQuire said.

And he has every reason to be hopeful that’s what happens.

He said since Connecticut doesn’t have a toll system there’s no reason it can’t create one that protects everyone’s privacy.

He said police should have access to live toll data to help with Amber alerts, but the information should be deleted within 48 hours.

The state Bond Commission is poised to approve a $10 million toll study on Wednesday.