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ACLU, EFF Sue Marin County Sheriff For Improperly Sharing License Plate Info

SAN RAFAEL (CBS SF/BCN) -- Privacy and immigration advocates sued the Marin County Sheriff's Office Thursday for allegedly endangering immigrant communities by sharing license plate and location data with federal and other outside agencies in violation of state laws.

The ACLU Foundation of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are among those representing community activists Lisa Bennett, Tara Evans and Cesar S. Lagleva in the suit filed in Marin County Superior Court.

The plaintiffs are seeking an end to what they say is the Sheriff's Office policy of allowing hundreds of agencies to access a database of scans from its automated license plate readers, which can be used to identify and track people.

According to the lawsuit, that policy is in violation of California's Senate Bill 34, which limits how government agencies can share their license plate reader information, and Senate Bill 54, the state's sanctuary law that limits the use of local resources to assist federal immigration authorities.

A spokesperson for the Marin County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Saira Hussain said in a news release, "In recent years, California has enacted laws specifically to protect immigrant communities and prohibit sharing ALPR data with entities outside the state. Local police and sheriffs are not above the law and should be held accountable when they violate measures designed to protect the privacy of all Californians generally, and vulnerable communities specifically."

The full complaint can be found online at the EFF's website.

"When the sheriff shares this sensitive location information about people driving though Marin, it exposes people to privacy invasion and it is particularly harmful to immigrant community members. People shouldn't have to worry that ICE is going to know when they drop their kids off at school or when they go to a doctor's appointment," said Matt Cagle, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California.

He says the data sharing flies in the face of two California laws, one from 2016 and the California Values Act of 2018. "Public safety means protecting the privacy of all people, including immigrants, as they drive about in the community and go about their daily lives."

In an email late this afternoon, Marin County Counsel Brian Washington told KPIX5 that the county had not been formally served with the lawsuit yet, but have seen a copy and are reviewing the allegations carefully and will respond.


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