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Opinion | Arkansas Governor and AG’s Photography Law Out-of-Sync with Their Priorities

Over the past several years, law enforcement has utilized new cutting-edge technologies to apprehend the most violent of criminals – murders, rapists and abductors. One such innovation, known as license plate recognition (LPR), takes photographs of license plates and logs their time and location, creating a searchable database that has allowed police to reduce investigation times and get felons off the streets.

However, a new law recently signed by Governor Mike Beebe, could put an end to LPR use in Arkansas, hamstringing law enforcement by limiting the use of a critical crime-fighting tool that helped solve thousands of violent crime cases across the country.

We know that Gov. Beebe’s and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s highest priorities are the safety and security of Arkansas citizens. Throughout their entire careers, Beebe and McDaniel have proven their singular focus on serving and protecting the Land of Opportunity. This track record makes more puzzling their ardent support for the new law that restricts the ability to take photographs in public places and limits private companies from using these pictures to recover stolen and missing cars.

In public places, LPR takes photographs of license plates and logs time and location. There is no personal information contained in the data. In fact, to connect a plate number to its registered owner via Department of Motor Vehicle records is already governed by a strict federal privacy law – the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA).

More than 70 percent of all crimes involve a vehicle. Not only has LPR data assisted law enforcement, but it also has aided private industry in recovering billions of dollars worth of defaulted and stolen automobiles.

By limiting LPR, not only does the new law make it easier for criminals to evade prosecution, it also infringes on the free speech rights of private companies, a direct attack on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment protections for LPR are clear, supported by precedent, and compelling enough that a similar LPR ban was challenged in Utah, and was quickly amended by the Governor, Attorney General and State Legislature.

Yet, the Arkansas Governor and Attorney General don’t want to subject their law to legal scrutiny. They’re trying to avoid a Constitutional challenge and have shown no interest in re-working the LPR law.

Both Gov. Beebe and McDaniel were voted into office because of their pledges to protect Arkansas residents. We have a simple ask. We want them to keep their campaign promises and re-work a law that’s against the best interest of Arkansans. We don’t think maintaining the ability for law enforcement to fight crime should require legal wrangling or court fights, just a markup session with a touch of common sense.

Carl Szabo analyzes tech-related legislative and regulatory initiatives relevant to online companies for NetChoice, trade association of eCommerce businesses and online consumers all of whom share the goal of promoting convenience, choice, and commerce on the net.

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