Virginia lawmakers want barcodes on license plates

Published: Jan. 4, 2013 at 3:43 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2013 at 4:08 AM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Two Republicans have asked the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and Virginia State Police to study how to track license plates using two kinds of technology, saying it would cut costs and increase revenue for the Commonwealth.

Most everyone who owns a car in Virginia has two license plates. The plates and decals cost the state money, so they want a barcode to replace them.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union says it's a potential cost-cutting measure with real issues.

"These kinds of technologies are real threats to our privacy," said Claire Gastanaga, the executive director of the ACLU.

Virginia lawmakers, Delegate Joe May and State Senator Stephen Newman, are behind the proposal. They want to eliminate plate decals and improve the readability of license plates while saving the Commonwealth money.

Gastanaga says a bar-coded license plate may be more efficient but isn't worth the privacy violation.

Using bar-coded license plates, law enforcement could better track your vehicle and make sure your plates are up to date.

Another part of the proposal is radio frequency identification (RFID). It works like an E-ZPass and officers could scan your license plate.

In 2004, lawmakers considered RFID's on driver licenses, but that was quickly shot down. Gastanaga says this proposal is just as bad.

"It won't stop with law enforcement. It just essentially allows government to follow you wherever you go in your car."

Virginia State Police are recommending further study of these potential tracking devices.

The DMV released a statement regarding the license plate study:

"The study does not propose or recommend legislation.

The study only references barcodes or radio frequency identification (RFID) for potential future exploration, with a priority emphasis on privacy. 

Any future technology added for plate readability would include only the information visible on the plate surface."

Document Summary for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles License Plate Study

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