California cops illegally share data with anti-abortion states, civil rights groups say

More than 70 California law enforcement agencies are violating state law by sharing automated license plate reader (ALPR) data with out-of-state agencies, putting out-of-state abortion seekers at risk, according to a trio of civil rights groups.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union chapters for both Northern and Southern California sent letters to 71 agencies — including the Folsom Police Department — giving them a June 15 deadline to stop sharing license plate data with states that criminalize abortion.

Through several public records requests, the EFF found that the listed law enforcement agencies shared license plate data with out-of-state agencies — sensitive information about where people live, work or seek reproductive health services and other medical care.

“ALPRs invade people’s privacy and violate the rights of entire communities, as they often are deployed in poor and historically overpoliced areas regardless of crime rates,” EFF staff attorney Jennifer Pinsof said in a statement. “Sharing ALPR data with law enforcement in states that criminalize abortion undermines California’s extensive efforts to protect reproductive health privacy.”

Pinsof was referring to AB 1242, a 2022 California law aimed at protecting out-of-state abortion-seekers from criminal reprisal from their home states.

“Idaho, for example, has enacted a law that makes helping a pregnant minor get an abortion in another state punishable by two to five years in prison,” according to an EFF statement. “The agencies that received the demand letters have shared ALPR data with law enforcement agencies across the country, including agencies in states with abortion restrictions including Alabama, Idaho, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.”

In addition to the Folsom Police Department, law enforcement agencies on the list include ones in Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Humboldt, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Merced, Orange, Placer, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Solano, Ventura and Yolo counties.

A representative for the Folsom Police Department did not responded to a Bee request for comment.

On Friday, the Twitter account for Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, which was not listed in the EFF report, challenged the findings.

The Sheriff’s Office said that ALPR data is used “to investigate serious crimes, such as homicide, child kidnappings, human trafficking, and drug trafficking across state borders.”

The Sheriff’s Office then, without evidence, accused the ACLU and EFF of lying as “part of a broader agenda to promote lawlessness and prevent criminals from being held accountable.”