LPR privacy concerns in hands of end users, Genetec says Video retention, access are easily customized

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

MONTREAL—Two weeks after deploying license plate recognition technology, a Florida airport got a hit on a wanted criminal headed to the airport from its perimeter. The criminal, who had no business being at the airport, was apprehended before arriving curbside, according to Danny Peleg, director of the transportation market for Genetec.

License plate recognition, or LPR, has its success stories, but, like other video surveillance products, it also has come under fire over privacy and civil liberty concerns. At least six states have enacted laws restricting its use and at least five more have similar pending legislation, according to the ACLU.

Retention of video and who has access to it are the key sticking points, but in the end, it all comes down to the end user, Jean-Pierre Picard, Genetec product analyst, said during the Genetec 2014 Press Summit held here Feb. 4-5.

Genetec’s AutoVu IP-based LPR system is part of its unified security platform, Security Center. The company has addressed privacy issues by providing end users with myriad permission levels from which to choose.

“LPR, just like any technology, must be implemented in a responsible manner,” Picard said. “We do work with end users to make sure our system can adapt to their determined parameters, and have improved our solution according to their requests to ensure they respect the regulations and privacy management guidelines in effect in their state or country.

“We’ve been deploying LPR systems for years now in European countries, where privacy laws are extremely strict,” Picard said.

Genetec provides training to help its customers learn about the different options to manage data privacy and retention, “by determining the actual policy is best left to customers and regulators,” he said.

If the end user, be it a law enforcement agency or parking patrol squad, has no restrictions on how long the LPR data is kept “that does concern a lot of people,” Picard said.

 “We equip customers with very granular tools to control privacy protection. From there it is up to them to define what their access policies are. We support extremely stringent restrictions,” he said.

AutoVu allows users to set parameters for how long images and nonidentifiable data, such as the speed a car was going, can be retained. “Those [license plates] that were just read and didn’t show up on any list can be deleted at the end of the shift,” Picard said.

Many AutoVu customers, such as parking lot patrollers, say they want to keep LPR information for at least two weeks for investigative reasons, he said. “Sometimes a crime is committed and you don’t hear about it for a while.”

The system is flexible and retention and access can easily be changed, he said.

Concerns about LPR can be valid, Picard said. “Collecting too much data and keeping it forever would be unjust tracking.  But to be honest, [some of the outcry] is a bit fear-mongering, especially with the climate last year in the U.S. with Edward Snowden.”

“Our approach is we provide really flexible tools to match whatever your needs and guidelines are. We prefer there are guidelines in place because it helps us make sure the system is running properly,” he said.