Iowa City Moves to Ban Surveillance Technology Tools

By:  Raven Clabough
06/06/2013
       
Iowa City Moves to Ban Surveillance Technology Tools

Iowa City, Iowa’s ordinance is the first in the U.S. to simultaneously ban traffic enforcement cameras, drones, and license plate recognition systems.

Lawmakers in Iowa City, Iowa, unanimously passed an ordinance on Tuesday that restricts the use of traffic enforcement cameras, drones, and automatic license plate recognitions systems. A second and third vote on the ordinance will take place June 18. It is reportedly the first municipal bill in the country to simultaneously ban all three law enforcement tools.

While red light cameras and drones have long been the subject of controversy for various reasons, lawmakers in Iowa City are addressing in particular the privacy concerns connected with the use of such devices. According to the website arstechnica.com, “Privacy experts say that they’ve never seen a law at any level of government that’s comparable to what Iowa City has proposed, and not just because it’s a three-in-one privacy-minded bill.”

The bill currently reads:

The City shall not:

A. Use any automatic traffic surveillance system or device, automatic license plate recognition system or device, or domestic drone system or device for the enforcement of a qualified traffic law violation, unless a peace officer or Parking Enforcement Attendant is present at the scene, witnesses the event, and personally issues the ticket to the alleged violator at the time and location of the vehicle.

Iowa City’s ordinance was proposed by a citizen group called Stop Big Brother, comprised of Iowa City residents who oppose the increased use of surveillance technology. The group's website declares:

Surveillance technology, and in particular traffic surveillance technology, is increasingly being pushed by technology vendors and device manufacturers to municipalities across the country under the banner of increased public safety. At its core, though, traffic surveillance has little to do with safety and everything to do with revenue. Worse yet, our liberties, constitutional rights, and this country's founding principles all end up being the collateral damage.

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