Civil liberties groups demand California police stop sharing drivers’ location data with police in anti-abortion states

SAN FRANCISCO—Seventy-one California police agencies in 22 counties must immediately stop sharing ALPR data with law enforcement agencies in other states because it violates the California law and could allow prosecution of abortion seekers and providers elsewhere, three civil liberties groups demanded Thursday in letters to those agencies.

Letters from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU NorCal), and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) gave agencies a June 15 deadline. to comply and respond. A months-long EFF investigation involving hundreds of public records requests found that many California police departments share records containing detailed driving profiles of local residents with agencies in other states.

ALPR camera systems collect and store driver location information, including dates, times, and locations. This sensitive information can reveal where people work, live, associate, worship, or seek reproductive health and other medical care.

“ALPRs invade people’s privacy and violate the rights of entire communities, as they are often deployed in poor and historically overcontrolled areas, regardless of crime rates,” said EFF staff attorney Jennifer Pinsof. “Sharing ALPR data with law enforcement in states that criminalize abortion undermines California’s broad efforts to protect reproductive health privacy.”

The letters point to how the nation’s legal landscape has changed in the past year.

“Particularly since the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which quashed Roe v. Wade, ALPR technology and the information it collects is vulnerable to exploitation against people who seek, provide, and facilitate access to abortion,” the letters state. . “Law enforcement officials in anti-abortion jurisdictions who receive the locations of drivers collected by the California-based ALPR may seek to use that information to monitor abortion clinics and vehicles seen around them and closely track movements of abortion seekers and providers. This threatens even those who obtain or provide abortions in California, as several anti-abortion states plan to criminalize and prosecute those who seek or assist in abortions out of state.”

Idaho, for example, enacted a law that makes helping a pregnant minor get an abortion in another state punishable by two to five years in prison.

The agencies that received the demand letters have shared the ALPR data with law enforcement agencies across the country, including agencies in states with abortion restrictions, including Alabama, Idaho, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. . As of 2016, sharing any ALPR data with federal or other state law enforcement agencies is a violation of the California Civil Code (SB 34). However, many agencies continue to use services such as Vigilant Solutions or Flock Safety to make the ALPR data they capture available to federal and other state agencies.

The sharing of ALPR data by California law enforcement with law enforcement in states that criminalize abortion also undermines California’s broad efforts to protect reproductive health privacy, specifically a 2022 law (AB 1242) which prohibits state and local agencies from providing abortion-related information to persons outside the community. state agencies.

For one of the new letters from EFF, ACLU NorCal and ACLU SoCal:

For information on how ALPRs threaten abortion access:

For general information about ALPR:

The agencies that received the demand letters include:

There are 71 agencies in 22 counties:

  • 12 in Orange County
  • 11 in Los Angeles County
  • 8 in Contra Costa County
  • 7 in Riverside County
  • 6 in San Joaquin County
  • 5 in San Bernardino County
  • 5 in Imperial County
  • 2 in Ventura County
  • 2 in Marin County
  • 1 in each of El Dorado, Fresno, Humboldt, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Placer, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Clara, Solano, and Yolo counties