Does LPR Compromise Consumer Privacy?
PALATINE, Ill. — Recent published reports included comments from consumer groups about how license plate recognition technology used by recovery agencies could be compromising privacy. However, a pair of LPR technology providers and a well-respected industry legal adviser all refuted these claims.
One provider, MVTRAC, used its two decades of recovery and remarketing experience to create a platform to expedite vehicle repossessions. Company officials didn't describe the information gathering and use process as one that would be "opening Pandora's box," as one media account had.
"The recovery agents do not have any access to nonpublic information. They are only given information about a vehicle of interest if it's been identified by a financial company as a vehicle wanted for recovery," explained Luke Smith, senior vice president of business development at MVTRAC, which is headquartered in Palatine, Ill.
"All of the information is encrypted, stored and password protected. The information is housed in secure facility as well. We follow all of the standard guidelines for information security and all of the government privacy protection acts," Smith continued in an interview with Auto Remarketing.
Another provider, Digital Recognition Network, shared a similar practice pattern. Cort DeHart is president of DRN, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas.
"Although the information aggregated by DRN is not nonpublic personal information, DRN has from its inception instituted a self-regulation policy that limits access only to parties with permissible purposes as defined by various privacy related legislation," DeHart stressed.
"Although DRN does not collect nor store any NPPI data, we believe strongly in the responsible protection of all sensitive data and limit, through various security measures, access to those institutions who have a permissible purpose under various privacy laws and who are legally contracted with DRN," DeHart added to Auto Remarketing.
Looking at the use of LPR technology through the lens of an attorney, Tom Hudson offered a unique perspective. Hudson is one of the founding partners of the law firm Hudson Cook, a nationwide provider of legal compliance services for the financial industry based in Hanover, Md.
"I'm not sure anybody has the right to privacy when they're driving a vehicle on a public road," Hudson contended. "I don't think that people have any reasonable expectation of privacy when they're driving around in public with their tags exposed for all the world to see.
"When you think about it, people could ride around on the street and write down tag numbers on a legal tablet. Then they could go back and phone the credit companies and ask if any of these belong to you," he went on to say.
Hudson said that one way of ensuring that LPR technology doesn't raise the ire of consumer privacy advocates is to stipulate its potential use in contracts at the time of a vehicle sale. He explained that practice is used by some dealers who install GPS devices or starter-interrupt units.
"If customers who are financing cars and leasing cars have somewhere in the documents they've signed consent that this technology can be used, I don't think there's any right to privacy issues at all," Hudson stated.
Thus far, executives from both MVTRAC and DRN said they haven't yet received negative flak from privacy advocates about compromising consumer information.
"Everything has been positive," Smith indicated. "We're actively working in a marketplace to make the best possible product and process. We just keep our heads down and moving forward."
DeHart maintained a similar position.
"To date we have not received much negative feedback," he pointed out. "While we are still in the infancy phase of this technology, DRN is committed to the benefits that it can provide to both public and private sectors. As the leader in this segment, we know that it is our responsibility to ensure that it is only used for the right purposes and in the interest of the public in general."
MVTRAC and DRN each reiterated how valuable LPR technology can be to recovery agents and financial institutions. Executives from both companies believe their product can harness the potential to turn repossessions quicker while maintaining the highest business practice standards.
"The number one advantage is the same for both the finance companies and the recovery companies in that with MVTRAC, it's a real-time solution," Smith asserted.
"When a license plate of a vehicle of interest is spotted, at that exact moment the recovery agent generates an order for repossession based off of that information," he continued. "They are able to confirm the VIN of the vehicle, recover the vehicle and the finance company is seeing the cycle time of recoveries being dramatically reduced because of the real-time nature of the system."
DeHart described a similar process with DRN's platform.
"Used correctly, LPR technology increases profitability by reducing the time and effort required to recover a vehicle," he emphasized.
"By maintaining a healthy database of plate scans, DRN helps agents quickly locate vehicles out for repossession," DeHart went on to highlight. "When the agent receives a new order, a plate scan gives them a location where the vehicle was last seen, and just as important, the time the vehicle was identified. DRN Affiliates are seeing a 10 to 15 percent increase in recoveries due to our cameras."