California hospital removes license plate-reading camera amid controversy

Highland Hospital, a 236-bed hospital in Oakland, Calif., recently removed an automated license plate-reader camera installed in the hospital's driveway entrance in 2014, the East Bay Express reports.

Hospital officials reportedly decided to remove the camera because the process by which it was installed "warranted more vetting," according to Terry Lightfoot, director of government and community relations for Oakland, Calif.-based Alameda Health System, which owns Highland Hospital.

"We believe how these tools are implemented, not just at our facility, but anywhere, needs a certain degree of public discussion," said Mr. Lightfoot. "That didn't occur."

Mike Katz-Lacabe, a human rights and privacy advocate and researcher, discovered the existence of the camera after filing a California Public Records Act request, the East Bay Express states.

Mr. Katz-Lacabe noted in a blog post the camera was installed as part of one of the hospital's larger construction projects in 2014. The camera captured the license plates of at least 293,148 vehicles between December 2016 and October 2017, he wrote, citing data from the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center.

Mr. Katz-Lacabe told the East Bay Express information made available by the NCRIC — such as license plate numbers — can be accessed by the public, including federal and local law enforcement agencies. Organizations such as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency may use the information to deport individuals living in the U.S. without legal permission, Mr. Katz-Lacabe wrote.

"I'm happy to see the camera removed," Mr. Katz-Lacabe told the East Bay Express. "I'm even happier [hospital officials are] indicating they will take actions to prevent things like this from happening in the future. Any time this kind of technology is deployed there needs to be an effective privacy assessment."

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