On the same day that the Washington Post carried a front-page story about the worrisome “StingRay” technology that aids police agencies in spying on citizens, Robert Siegel of NPR’s All Things Considered interviewed Del. Rich Anderson (R-Prince William County) about the General Assembly’s Ben Franklin Privacy Caucus, which the NPR host described as “an unusual political alliance in Virginia.”
Siegel said “a coalition of libertarian and progressive lawmakers is working to place limits on what the police can do with drones and other devices.”
He asked Anderson to talk about license plate readers.
Anderson explained his concerns about how police are able to take “thousands and thousands of photographs” of license plates “every hour.” By piecing that information together, he said, “they are certainly able to determine the whereabouts, the habit patterns, the associations, the interests, and all those sorts of personal things that, I think, most American citizens would rather be protected.”
He said the use of license plate readers “creates an ill-at-ease sort of response among the many citizens with whom I have spoken. It’s just an inherently American quality that we have an expectation of privacy.”
Anderson noted that he had patroned a bill this year that limits the period of time law enforcement can keep the data collected by license plate readers.
Siegel also asked about the StingRay technology.
Anderson said the StingRay “mimics a cell phone tower and everything within its range it can sweep up amazingly minute and personal information of a very sensitive quality.” He said that two members of the Ben Franklin Privacy Caucus carried a bill that would require police to obtain a warrant to use this kind of technology.
Finally, Siegel asked why, given the number of Founders who lived in Virginia, the privacy caucus is named for Pennsylvanian Ben Franklin.
The simple answer, Anderson explained, is that Franklin had once said that “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Listen to the entire interview here: