In today’s digital world, privacy is a major concern. With PII data such as license plate numbers widely available, solutions are in high demand to prevent unauthorized use and access to this data.
A single license plate number can lead to critical information such as the owner of the vehicle, previous owners of the vehicle, travel patterns and whereabouts of the owner, and more. Such information being publicly available can put a threat to the life of an individual.
A license plate redaction solution proves to be important for protecting your privacy. This process involves obscuring or blurring out license plate numbers in images or videos to prevent personal information from being publicly accessible.
With the widespread use of cameras and license plate recognition technology, license plate redaction has become increasingly necessary to maintain the balance between transparency and personal privacy.
Why Does Law Enforcement Collect License Plate Data?
License plate numbers help law enforcement officials track down criminals on the go, by detecting and tracking getaway vehicles, stolen vehicles, vehicles involved in crimes, vehicles associated to AMBER alerts and other outstanding warrants.
Often, vehicle number plates are run across a criminal database, or a “hot list”, and police officers or other law enforcers are notified whenever there’s a hit.
This has mitigated criminal activities and prevented several criminals from repeated offenses.
“It is one of those big things. It gives you the tip before you knew it,” Lt. Jausiah Jacobsen of Fairfield Police Department to FOX40 News.
Why Is License Plate Redaction So Important?
While we do understand the importance of license plate detection, let’s look at this.
Fairfield is a small town of 41 square miles, with 56 cameras spread across city streets by the police department, monitoring every single vehicle in sight.
Each camera monitors the streets 24/7, generating heaps of footage and consuming countless resources for detection. Hardly 0.1% percent of these land a hit. (Based off a 2020 report by the California State Auditor)
Moreover, just for the state of California alone, the retention period of video evidence (which may potentially hold license plate data) spans six months to three years or more. With a few exceptions shortening it down to 30 days.
Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and several other compliances, these organizations may be obliged to publicly release this data to individuals.
Another element to consider is that the CCPA demands that all PII data on digital evidence and other publicly released information must be thoroughly redacted, which also includes license plates as per California Senate Bill 34.
There’s also the lingering threat of data breaches. Despite the use of the most advanced security protocols, digital data is always subject to a breach – if a data giant such as Facebook could get a breach in 2021, exposing personally identifiable (PII) data from over 533 million users, pretty much anyone can.
Read more on this massive data leak on BusinessInsider.
Now take this into perspective. A single license plate can reveal the exact location of a person’s vehicle, with details such as where a person lives, works and places they frequently visit. This data poses a huge threat to an individual’s privacy and can jeopardize their life.
Imagine if such a large volume of license plate information falls into the wrong hands!
The Challenges Of License Plate Redaction
While redaction of license plates to conceal data is the way out of trouble, it's not as easy as it seems.
Thousands of vehicles pass every street and stop every day. Just factor that into the 56 cameras of Fairfield alone, recording non-stop and capturing countless vehicles in heaps of video data.
If we speak for manual redaction, that’s a man on a chair who knows how to redact a video by manually selecting and concealing license plates for each individual frame. Let that slide in with the fact that a normal CCTV camera records at 30 frames per second – clearly not a task one person alone can accomplish.
Investing extensive manual labor may prove to be expensive for a time intensive task such as CCTV redaction. Whereas complete, un-manned, automatic license plate redaction of these footages may redact out the specific plates law enforcement officers are looking for, too.
What we need is to find the middle ground between automatic and manual redaction.
The Ideal Solution For License Plate Redaction Needs
We do see that automatic license plate redaction is necessary to balance the need for transparency and public disclosure of information while fulfilling the need to protect personal privacy. However, a solution that does not offer manual selection of detected elements will fail to serve its purpose for law enforcement agencies.
Narrowing down the facts, we come to the conclusion that the ideal video redaction software will incorporate both automatic and manual redaction mechanisms together.
Think of it this way:
- A redaction solution that detects thousands of license plates in video footage and photographs with ease, using a powerful AI-powered detection system, trained with diverse datasets.
- The redaction solution allows you to pick and choose license plates to redact, from a well-organized selection or list of detected elements, making it easier to identify vehicles involved in criminal activity throughout the footage.
- The redacted videos are stored in a system that allows you to share with ease with internal and external entities. For external sharing, the system offers strong controls to limit access to information.
- Considering the large heaps of video data, the system should be diverse in terms of deploying storage over the cloud, on premises in your own data center or even in a hybrid infrastructure.
- Lastly, as all footage will be considered as digital evidence, the system should ensure integrity of the data with security measures such as encryption of data stored and shared and identify evidence tampering.
While there are multiple redaction tools available, not every tool will offer the necessary features to make the task of redacting license plates from footage efficient while staying compliant with legal prerequisites.
Learn more with our complete guide on redaction.
If you’re looking for a particular solution that offers all of the above, be sure to try out our product VIDIZMO Redactor.
Get a free trial today and get to know for yourself what we have to offer!