RCMP officials and Victoria police announced changes to the controversial licence plate recognition system, which was slammed by the B.C. privacy commissioner for breaching provincial laws.
Field tests will begin in a few weeks to address the commissioner’s primary concern that Victoria police are sharing information that is not pertinent to any police investigation, said Denis Boucher, superintendent for the RCMP’s E Division traffic services.
Boucher made the announcement Tuesday evening at the Victoria police board meeting, saying changes will stop the transfer of non-essential information.
He also wanted to assure the board that Mounties were not using the program as a mass surveillance system to track British Columbians.
“I can tell you unequivocally that we do not,” he said. “We don’t use it in that fashion, we are not authorized to use it that fashion and I do not allow it to be used that fashion.”
The automated licence plate recognition program has become a contentious issue in Victoria.
B.C.’s privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham expressed concerns in November, calling the system illegal. Then in December, Victoria police board chairman Dean Fortin was prepared to ask board members to turn the cameras off until Denham’s concerns were addressed.
But after a private meeting, the board members emerged, saying they will leave the cameras running until the Mounties make changes.
The recognition program allows cameras on police cruisers to record license plates, vehicle images as well as the date, time and location of the recording.
The program allows officers to easily identify a person who may have a warrant for his or her arrest.
If a plate draws a hit on the Canadian Police Information Centre, a national database used to track information such as criminal histories, missing persons and outstanding warrants, then officers can take further action.
But all images are stored, even the ones “non-hit” information, which is also sent to the RCMP, who say the data is deleted within 30 minutes of transfer.
Changes to the program will now delete the information when the officer completes a shift-end report.
Boucher said his team is also addressing several other concerns, including an update to the description of the program on the RCMP website.
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