August 10, 2018 By Wallin & Klarich

California has attempted to distance itself from the Trump Administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration. Since President Trump took office, California has passed laws to protect undocumented immigrants and limit how local law enforcement cooperates with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. While California may be known for its welcoming stance on immigration, a well-known Orange County company was recently accused of working with a company that provides information to ICE.

Orange County Shopping Centers Sharing License Plate Data with Police

According to a usage and privacy policy on the Irvine Company’s website and a report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, information collected since December 2016 by automated license plate readers at three popular Orange County shopping centers operated by the Irvine Company has been shared with a surveillance technology vendor that sells data to ICE.

Livermore-based Vigilant Solutions provides automated license plate recognition technology to the Irvine Spectrum Center, Fashion Island in Newport Beach and The Market Place in Tustin and Irvine. Cameras installed at these shopping centers take pictures of license plates of guests in the parking lot. The license plate image is converted to text and a time, date and GPS location is attached.

This information is shared with local law enforcement, which can use it to track travel patterns of vehicles and monitor any suspicious activity.

Vigilant Solutions shares collected data with local police departments in Irvine, Newport Beach and Tustin, but, according to Irvine Company chief communications officer Scott Starkey, Vigilant is not permitted to share data with ICE.

Are You at Risk of Arrest by ICE at a Shopping Center?

Although the Irvine Company says that Vigilant Solutions does not share data with ICE, some are concerned that shopping at these three Orange County shopping centers could make you an ICE target. Mohammad Tajsar, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, told reporters that ICE could still get license plate information from the law enforcement agencies that partner with Vigilant Solutions.

However, Vigilant states that it only shares license plate data from the shopping centers with select law enforcement agencies as a method to keep mall patrons safe and secure.

Meanwhile, ICE says that it is not interested in creating a license plate database and that data acquired from license plate readers is only used in criminal and civil investigations.

Vigilant shares its data with around 1,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, with some located in California. While many shoppers likely understand that their presence is constantly being recorded by security cameras, most are probably unaware that their license plates are being tracked.

Though the Irvine Company, ICE and Vigilant Solutions say that license plate information can’t be used in immigration matters, the possibility still exists that local law enforcement agencies could cooperate with federal agencies. If anything, this technology provides California law enforcement agencies another tool to monitor citizens.

What Do You Think about License Plate Monitoring Technology?

Will you be shopping at the Irvine Spectrum, The Market Place or Fashion Island knowing that your license plate number could be stored in a database? Do you think it is right for local law enforcement agencies to have access to your license plate information and whereabouts?

We want to hear from you. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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