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Boston Police suspend use of high-tech licence plate readers amid privacy concerns

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The Boston Police Department has indefinitely suspended its use of high-tech scanners that automatically check whether drivers have outstanding parking tickets, lapsed insurance or other violations after a Globe investigation raised serious privacy concerns.

The police inadvertently released to the Globe the license plate numbers of more than 68,000 vehicles that tripped alarms on automated license plate readers over a six-month period. Many of the vehicles were scanned dozens of times in that period alone.

The released information also raised questions about whether police were following up on the scans, since numerous vehicles repeatedly triggered alarms for the same offenses. One motorcycle that had been reported stolen triggered scanner alerts 59 times over six months, while another plate with lapsed insurance was scanned a total of 97 times in the same span.

“We just took [the scanner program] off-line while the commissioner reviews it,” said Boston police spokeswoman Cheryl Fiandaca. “He wants to review it so he knows that it’s being used effectively and that it doesn’t invade anyone’s privacy.”

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