EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

January 16, 2014

N.H. House says no to license plate scanning

Privacy debate

CONCORD — The New Hampshire House yesterday rejected a bill that would have allowed police to scan license plates.

House Bill 675 went down, 250-97. Then the House drove a procedural stake through its heart, ending further discussion this session, voting 214-135 for indefinite postponement.

Critics argued the bill threatened individual privacy and invoked images of controversial National Security Agency data collection practices.

Rep. Jim Webb, R-Derry, opposing the bill, said New Hampshire is the “Live Free or Die” state.

“I guess they’re not going to scan that part of our plate,” Webb said.

Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, a longtime defender of privacy rights in the Legislature, pointed to the NSA controversy.

“We have to ask ourselves in New Hampshire if we want to go down that road,” Kurk said.

He argued privacy outweighed public safety benefits, suggesting there could be a potential for people being tracked during visits to doctors or political protests.

Kurk related how in Massachusetts police in Boston inadvertently released personal information from such a data base and warned such a mistake could happen in New Hampshire.

“We are creating another honey pot and the bees and bears will be there,” Kurk said.

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee had narrowly recommended passage, 10-7, saying towns and cities could decide whether to use the devices and the information would improve traffic safety, help locate stolen cars and find missing children.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Laura Pantelakos, D-Portsmouth, assured colleagues the bill contained strict standards.

Rep. Geoffrey Hirsch, D-Bradford, asked lawmakers to pass the bill, questioning, in a world of vanity and legislative plates, their privacy arguments.

“Expectation of privacy. Really?” Hirsch asked.

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