Thursday, June 24, 2010

Highway Traffic Camera Plan Draws ACLU Concern

By Randy Ellis/The Oklahoman ~ A local civil rights organization Wednesday said it is concerned that privacy rights of Oklahomans could be violated by a proposed state contract to use highway traffic cameras to identify motorists without vehicle insurance.

To read The McCarville Report Online's detailed coverage of this issue, search Highway Cameras in the box at top left.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma issued a news release announcing it has submitted an open records request to the state Department of Public Safety seeking information about a proposed insurance verification enforcement system.

"While the state has a vested interest in demanding all drivers are insured, it is not acceptable if the information captured from this elaborate camera system is used for any other purposes,” said C.S. Thornton, deputy director of ACLU of Oklahoma.

For example, it would be an abuse of authority to use information obtained under the guise of insurance verification to identify locations of people with outstanding arrest warrants, contends Tamya Cox, legislative counsel and program director for ACLU Oklahoma.

The Department of Public Safety is evaluating bids submitted by four companies that are competing for the contract.

Former University of Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys football coach Barry Switzer has been promoting InsureNet, which is part of the Oklahoma Public Safety Consortium which is one of the bidders seeking the contract. The other bidders are Canadian-based Intelligent Imaging Systems of Edmonton, Alberta; MV VeriSol, headquartered in Kingston, Ga.; and American Traffic Solutions, based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

State officials are counting on the system to raise at least $50 million in additional revenue next fiscal year.

"I have many concerns of the potential authorized and unauthorized abuse of government intrusion,” said state Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, who brought the proposed contract to the attention of the local ACLU affiliate. "The idea that private information may be handed over by insurance companies to a third party without strong safeguards should worry all Oklahomans.”

Jonathan Miller, chairman of InsureNet, and Charles Pecchio, chairman of MV VeriSol, both previously told The Oklahoman that their proposed systems are designed to protect privacy rights.

A Department of Public Safety spokesman did not return telephone calls Wednesday seeking comment.

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