SACRAMENTO — The state Senate on Wednesday failed to pass a bill that would have placed restrictions on vehicle-tracking technology to protect people’s privacy.

Lawmakers rejected SB893 by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, on an 18-15 vote. The bill fell short of the 21 votes needed.

The bill sought to ban public and private agencies from selling data collected from automatic license-plate reader systems. It also would have required operators to maintain a privacy policy and keep cameras off private property.

“The right to privacy is older than the Bill of Rights,” Hill said.

The high-speed camera technology is primarily employed by law enforcement agencies that use the license-plate readers to track criminals. For example, Hill said the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department was able to recover 495 stolen vehicles in the first month of using the system.

But Hill said there have been instances of abuse, including a police officer who tracked a woman he met on duty. Hill said the cameras provide a useful crime-fighting tool, “but technology is evolving faster than law.”

Law enforcement groups expressed concern that the bill would hurt their ability to fight crime. The bill in its current form states that data collected through the systems cannot be the only reason for establishing probable cause to obtain a search or arrest warrant.

Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, said she supported the bill with the expectation that revisions would be made to strike a better balance between privacy and law enforcement.

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