ACLU: ICE uses license plate database to target immigrants

License plate cameras.
License plate cameras. Photo: Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Immigration agents have been using a database of nationwide license plate numbers supplied by local police departments to target unauthorized immigrants, according to documents released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Why it matters: Police departments have long used automatic license plate scanners installed to spot criminal suspects and enforce traffic regulations. But Vasudha Talla, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, wrote in a blog post that the organization has "grave concerns about the civil liberties risks of license plate readers take on greater urgency as this surveillance information fuels ICE’s deportation machine."

Expert Voices

Facial recognition surveillance faces new calls for legal limits

a grid of school yearbook–style photos with cropping squares around each face
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The expanded use of facial recognition by law enforcement agencies poses significant risks, from misidentifications and unlawful targeting to the danger of disclosing sensitive information about people's daily lives.

What's happening: There are few legal constraints on the use of facial recognition. Both federal and state lawmakers are trying to address the technology's risks while responding to pressure from law enforcement and from Big Tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft.

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