Article from PROTECTOR magazine issue 11/2020

 Author: Peter Schmitz, CEO Schmitz GmbH

In December 2018, a decision by the German Federal Constitutional Court on automated license plate recognition in connection with data protection caused a stir. This is because the court's decision strengthened citizens' right to informational self-determination. A commuter had filed a lawsuit against a system operated by the Bavarian police on a federal highway to automatically check license plates, after he had previously failed at the Bavarian Administrative Court and the Federal Administrative Court.

Automated license plate recognition interferes with fundamental right to informational self-determination

The Federal Constitutional Court's ruling was that license plate checks encroach on the fundamental right to informational self-determination even if, in the event of a miss, the license plate is only present for a fraction of a second and is then automatically deleted without a trace. It thus contradicts its own decision of March 11, 2008.

It is part of the freedom of the community that citizens can basically move around without being arbitrarily registered by the state, having to account for their probity and being exposed to the feeling of being constantly monitored.

Complaints against license plate checks do not have to be substantiated

In his remarks on the constitutional limits of automated license plate checks in relation to the Federal Constitutional Court's ruling, Professor Dr. Roggan, a lecturer at the Brandenburg State Police University of Applied Sciences, comments as follows: "The requirement of justification for future plaintiffs is considerably lowered by the ruling, because from now on, in cases of license plate checks, the assertion of having passed a checkpoint by means of a motor vehicle will be sufficient to demonstrate one's own and direct concern, even if consequences can no longer be reconstructed by deleting them without a trace."

When is license plate recognition compliant with data protection?

In the meantime, modules for automatic license plate recognition are offered onboard in many IP cameras. According to the above explanations, users of this technology are on thin ice. Interested parties can find out which applications can nevertheless be implemented with a further developed solution for vehicle identification on this homepage and in our info video on the subject of GDPR and new vehicle identification.


Original German contribution: