February 24, 2014. Channel 7/WSPA. By Chris Abbotts. South Carolina is holding on to information gathered from license plate scanners for three years, a time frame some civil libertarians say is too long.
7 On Your Side uncovered that the State Law Enforcement Division's database includes more than 40 million time-stamped pictures of license plates. Those pictures also store the GPS location where that picture was taken.
"Who's going to have access to your whole life story and your movements. Your mobility can tell a lot," Victoria Middleton, of the American Civil Liberties Union in South Carolina, said.
The information is captured from cameras mounted on police patrol cars and on cameras placed along the side of streets.
"We have very tight guidelines in our policies and agencies, who has access to this information. It is very limited," SLED Chief Mark Keel said.
Advocates like Middleton complain that there are no state regulations that set how that information is stored and monitored.
"You need oversight within the system of those individuals who have direct access," she said.
The state says it is constantly working to upgrade cyber security, especially in light of the hack at the Department of Revenue in 2012.
Middleton has started discussions with state lawmakers about creating new electronic surveillance laws.
As of February, no new electronic surveillance acts have been introduced in the state legislature.
Several area departments use the readers including Spartanburg Police, Pickens County Sheriff and Henderson County Sheriff.
Others, like Anderson County Sheriff, have used the readers on loan from SLED. They come on trailers that are placed on the side of the road and tell you your speed. Officers who use the trailers must be 16-hour NCIC certified.
The scanners recognize plates and automatically snap a picture of the plate, an overview of the car along with the time, date and location.