How secure is license plate registration when parking?

2 min
Tags: parking registration license plates parking garages parking lot parking tickets video surveillanc public spaces recording

Automatic registration of license plates in parking areas is a technology that is being used more and more frequently in parking garages, in parking lots, or in campgrounds. In the long term, these systems are intended to replace barrier systems and parking tickets. For motorists, the technology raises questions about safety and data protection.

How does automatic license plate registration work?

Automatic license plate registration usually works by capturing and storing the vehicle's license plate number with a special camera when it enters a parking garage or parking lot. The entire vehicle or the driver is not photographed. The license plate number, date and time of entry into the parking area are stored in the form of an image file. Data is automatically compared, for example, to identify a parking space reservation or a long-term parker with a contract.

Before leaving the parking object, drivers enter their license plate number at the pay station or insert the parking ticket. As soon as the stored license plate number is found in the database, the amount of the parking fee to be paid by the driver is determined automatically. At the exit, the license plate is again detected with a camera. If the system finds the record belonging to this license plate and the parking fee has been paid, the barrier opens and the parking process is completed.

Legal basis for registration of license plates

Many drivers are skeptical about license plate registration systems and fear that their data will be misused or their movements monitored. This skepticism is not entirely unjustified, because the automatic recording of license plates in parking areas encroaches on the protection of the fundamental right to informational self-determination. After all, this is personal data that allows conclusions to be drawn about the vehicle owner or driver. Therefore, the automatic recording of license plates in parking areas must be based on the consent of the persons concerned.

In Germany, for example, the legal basis for the automatic recording of license plates in parking areas varies from state to state. In some federal states, there are special regulations for video surveillance in public spaces or non-public spaces, such as in Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg. In other federal states, general regulations of the Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG) or the General Data Protection Regulation (DSGVO) must be used.

Active consent of the data subjects required

The consent of the data subjects for the automatic recording of license plates in parking areas must be voluntary, informed and unambiguous. This means that motorists must be informed in advance about the purpose, scope and duration of the data processing, as well as their rights. In addition, they must take an active action to give their consent, such as pressing a button or signing a contract.

Obligation of the operators to provide information

Parking lot operators must comply with their obligations under Art. 13 GDPR and provide information in a precise, transparent, comprehensible and easily accessible form about the data processing operation of automatic registration of vehicle license plates. In order to comply with these obligations, potential users of the parking lot must be informed of the automatic capture of the license plate number by means of an appropriate sign even before they enter. For this purpose, the sign must be placed in such a way that a motorist has the possibility to turn around with the car in order to be able to avoid data processing in this way.  And this must be done before he or she comes into the field of vision of the camera for automatic recording.