Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Two meetings: prescription records and license plate scans

Today I had a choice to make.  I could have gone to the Criminal Justice and Juvenile Information Policy Group meeting which dealt with license plate scans being collected and retained by police by the millions or to the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy Advisory Board that oversees the Minnesota Prescription Monitoring Program (MNPMP) database which has over 7 million prescription records on a million plus Minnesotans.

I decided to go to MNPMP meeting because I am an advisory board member representing privacy concerns.  Every year there is an annual meeting talking about what legislation will be coming for the legislative session.  In past years there has been discussion about proposals to allow law enforcement easy access to your prescription record rather than the current law which is only through a search warrant or sharing your prescription records to others without you knowing about it.

Well the legislative draft bill came out and was discussed point by point.  The part I did not like is where the health-related licensing boards which includes the licensing of nurses to social workers will have direct access to licensee's prescription records if they are under investigation in certain situations. I stated at the meeting something like this, "Build a database for one purpose, and others will come for other purposes."  This is so true in the world of databases.  Points I raised were ones like, Would the individual know about their records being used, or why is prescription record which was collected for one purpose, now being used for another purpose without the person's consent or knowledge.

The Board of Pharmacy though I must compliment has been steadfast in following the law which the drug database is regulated by. 

Now to the Criminal Justice and Juvenile Information Policy Group meeting which was to make a decision about the collection and retention of millions of records of where you and I travel if we happen to be owners of cars collected secretly by the cops.

Per Eric Roper's Star Tribune Blog post  the Policy Group made up of Commissioners, judges, and others decided to make the license scan data private, but deleted the retention of 180 days for the data if there were no hits for law enforcement investigation.

Now I have to scratch my head on this one.  By deleting the retention of 180 days, is the Policy Group saying with all intents and purposes, DO NOT KEEP OR COLLECT LICENSE SCANS ON INNOCENT AND LAW ABIDING PEOPLE, or are they saying the COPS CAN COLLECT ALL THE LICENSE SCAN DATA THEY WANT ON INNOCENT AND LAW ABIDING PEOPLE AND KEEP IT AS LONG AS THEY WANT.

I am perplexed.

By making it private there is no accountability as to how law enforcement will use this data.  My position has been all along if law enforcement is to use the license scans it should be only used for the hit that happens when a plate is matched with same.  For example, if a plate/car is hit with a match for a stolen car, police will do their action.  Under current law, some data will be private or confidential, but after the case is closed a great amount of the data is public. This maintains accountability and transparency.

On the other side of the coin if license scan data was to be maintained by the cops on innocent and law abiding people, the data should remain public for accountability and transparency purposes.  Law enforcement in Minnesota has had too many problems with databases over the past decade.  Who is Watching the Watchers if the data is secret?

Now I read the quote of Justice Anderson in the Strib piece in regards to the reason why the data should be classified as private.

"The problem with this data [is] it has -- to my mind -- some of the highest potential for misuse [than] about any kind of data we keep," said Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson. "And if this data is out there public, just think about ...a stalker...divorce cases."

I disagree with the Justice.  Every kind of public data can be misused, and some current public data even higher potential then license plate scans which have no names attached.

But what about the misuse by law enforcement of this kind of data? Should law enforcement agencies of Minnesota collect and retain movements of law abiding and innocent people?

Now if the Policy Group by it's decision meant that Minnesota law enforcement cannot collect and retain Automatic License Plate Recognition data by the millions on innocent and law abiding Minnesotans and can only use and retain it with "hits" in which that data remains private, that is a good policy choice to begin discussions with at the Legislature.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Email to Minnesota Criminal Justice Policy Group on License Plate Cameras

This is an email which I sent to some members of the Minnesota Criminal Justice and Juvenile Justice Information Policy Group about their vote which they will hold on December 12, 2012 in regards to License Plate Scans.  Some may not get it because access to their email address is hard to come by.

"I have been a long time member of the Minnesota Criminal Justice and Juvenile Justice Information Task Force since it's inception.  Recently the Task Force took on the issue of Automatic License Plate Recognition(ALPR).  During the first discussion of the topic I voted no, because I think it is important for the task force to be true to it's mission as I view it and give the Policy Group the "full scoop" on what ALPR's can do, what reasons why law enforcement should be collecting this data, how will it be integrated in the criminal information system, and other related issues.  I do not believe it lived up to that expectation.  At that first meeting I and the representative of the Attorney General were the only ones that voted no.

Granted there was a working group organized to discuss the retention issue, but the decision was already made to make the license plate scan data private.  I was of the belief that the working group of the task force was not going to entertain other issues related to Automatic License Plate Recognition, which was the case.  On November 9th, 2012 the Task Force voted on the report from the work group recommending 180 day retention and the data be classified as private. I could not be at the meeting, but I stated to Dana Gotz for the record to mark me as a NO vote.

A basic rationale to have ALPR, for example is, car plates caught by cameras may be checked with known plates of a stolen car.  A “hit” could happen which then lets the police know the car may be stolen.  Law enforcement may take appropriate action.  But my concern is the collection of millions of innocent law abiding people's travels and movement which could be termed "non hits".

It has been my experience with my long and active interaction with Minnesota law enforcement on civil liberty and information issues the cops will find many uses for this kind of data which even you, the Policy Group, or the public may not even be aware of.  Even in the literature given to law enforcement as a guide/manual it is suggested the license plate data can be used to data mine for patterns and to link to databases.  A manual which I obtained about ALPR's directs law enforcement about using this new "toy" for Geo Fencing, pattern recognition, watch list development, and the broad category of "Homeland Security".

Should we routinely track innocent motorists in this way? The broader question is: Should law enforcement agencies of Minnesota collect and retain movements of law abiding and innocent people?  My answer is clear, it's no.
Bottom line, Minnesota law enforcement agencies who have the readers can track, record and store data on people on our streets, regardless of whether individuals are suspected of any crimes or not. Whether or not it is narrowed to only the "hits" to people suspected of crime is a decision that begins with the Policy Group."

License Plate Scan proposal voted on tomorrow

The location of the meeting where there will be discussion of a proposal to make license plate data collected by Automatic License Plate Readers classified as private data and retained for 180 days and sent to the Minnesota Legislature will be here:

Criminal & Juvenile Justice Information Policy Group Meeting
Date:  Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Time:  1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Location:  Room 230, MN Judicial Center, 25 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

St Paul City Council take time to know what you do

The St Paul City Council at it's December 5, 2013 meeting will be discussing and voting on their 2013 Legislative package(Item 25 on agenda).  Tucked in the the city's legislative desires is a simple sentence which says:

"Support a classification for criminal intelligence data consistent with our partners in law enforcement."

Now when I became aware of this I asked myself three questions:

Do the City Council members know anything about this issue and what it means?

Are they aware of the contentiousness of the proposal and debate about criminal intelligence at the Legislature for the past several years?

And does the public have a right to make comments on this proposal?

My answer was no.

So what I did I sent an email to members of the St Paul City Council and staff stating to them this was not a simple act of passing a one sentence statement, but can have:

1. Impact on individual civil liberties and privacy.

2. Allows for innocent and law-abiding people to be placed in files and databases at a low threshold of reasonable suspicion.

3. Consequences of First Amendment activities being monitored and under surveillance by law enforcement.

4. Issues of racial profiling by law enforcement, and

5. Have less accountability and transparency of law enforcement activities by making public data secret.

This afternoon I decided to follow up with the lobbyist for the City of St Paul and also some Council members.  The lobbyist was not pleased with my email.  We had some discussion.  Her perspective is the St. Paul Police are asking for the City Council to support this position.  I basically said that this is and has been a contentious issue at the Legislature for several years.  It is important to let City Council members know that, I stated.  I got the impression she did not feel the one sentence support for making data secret was not a big deal.

I then met with two City Council members ever so briefly about the email I sent.  One member had just read it and had to think about it.  Another Council member was gracious enough to speak with me and give me a copy of the St Paul Police Department response.  We bantered for a minute or two more and then I was struck by the elected officials remark saying "It doesn't matter."   The comment was in response about possibly removing the "Support a classification for criminal intelligence data consistent with our partners in law enforcement."

I took the remark to mean that generally nobody cares about a 14 word sentence being a part of the 2013 St Paul Legislative package.

I care and I think many other residents in St Paul do.

By voting in favor of a "criminal intelligence classification" proposal allows law enforcement to keep secret information on individuals who police think may commit a crime. The low threshold used to get into the intelligence file is reasonable suspicion. Should government be collecting information on people who are law-biding in their secret files?  How are First Amendment activities protected from surveillance?  What information that has been public for decades in Minnesota no longer will be?  Who will the information be shared with?  What information that is now public will no longer be public and made secret?  Where is the accountability and transparency?

"It does matter" members of the St Paul City Council, how you vote on legislative proposals.  By supporting proposals you are speaking for 285,000 people.

The St Paul City Council having recently voted to payout $300,000 plus to Anne Marie Rasmusson should be mindful of the creation of new databases and law which creates similar situations and penalties.