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State agrees to delete toll booth photos

DERRY — The state is looking to change the system of photographing license plates at tolls after a state representative expressed privacy concerns.

State Rep. James Webb said that when he drove through the Hooksett tolls on Interstate 93 recently, he noticed cameras were photographing every vehicle that passed through.

Webb said that the practice violates motorists' rights.

Earl Sweeney, assistant commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Safety, said Monday that the equipment was installed for open road tolling and the E-Z Pass system.

The cameras were added within about the past six months on I-93 in Hooksett and a few other sites in the state by a new provider. The cameras take photos of all license plates, not just the violators of E-ZPass, Sweeney said.

The information is retained for a few hours until it is deleted, he said.

The state is now taking steps to ensure the information is immediately deleted, as long as enough money is available in the motorist's account, Sweeney said. If not, a photograph of the violator's license plate is kept for verification purposes.

New Hampshire has some of the most stringent privacy laws in the nation, Sweeney said.

"So, someone couldn't get in there and find out if Earl Sweeney went to Hooksett or not," Sweeney said.

By law, cameras are designed to photograph only the license plate and a small portion of the vehicle grille and the trunk or hatch section, he said.

The exception sometimes occurs with motorcycles, he said.

The state is working with the vendor to make the changes to the system to ensure the information is immediately deleted, and Sweeney said he expects that process to be completed soon.

"It's a matter of weeks at the most," he said.

Some Derry residents had mixed reactions when told of the cameras at the tolls and the photographing of license plates.

Betsy McCall said she isn't concerned about the presence of the cameras.

"I think we are under camera surveillance almost everywhere we go — whether it's a gas station or the mall or wherever — it's everyplace," McCall said. "I don't care, I really don't care."

Vinny Testa said he has concerns that the cameras could be violating privacy.

"I would say it's probably an invasion of privacy," Testa said.

He said he would like to see the changes made so the license plate information is immediately deleted.


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