Data that law enforcement collects indiscriminately from license plate readers on millions of motorists are not police “investigative records” that may be kept secret from the public, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The court further ruled, though, that a lower court should weigh whether release of redacted data — leaving out individual license plate numbers — would serve a greater public interest than withholding the information.

The justices said they agreed with a lower court ruling that releasing the raw data, which could be used to identify individuals, should not be disclosed.

The 18-page opinion stems from a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles but is likely to have implications throughout the state, including San Diego County where there has been at least one legal challenge to an agency’s refusal to release license plate reader data.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s and Los Angeles Police departments in 2013 for access to the raw data, called the state Supreme Court’s ruling a victory.

 

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