Posted with permission from NJ.com
A license plate reader is shown in November 2013 photo.
A license plate reader is shown in November 2013 photo.

Ocean County officials agreed Wednesday to share data collected through the use of license-plate readers with federal authorities.

The agreement allows members of the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office to provide information with the Drug Enforcement Association "in near real-time."

In turn, the prosecutor's office can access information obtained by the DEA through automated license plate readers to help assist with local investigations.

"The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office users shall not take any operational action based solely on LPR information from DEA," according to the agreement approved by the Ocean County Freeholders.

A spokesman for the prosecutor's office, Al Della Fave, said the agreement "improves the coordination of communicating and sharing critical existing investigative information only between law enforcement agencies."

"The oversight by the prosecutor's office provides additional individual privacy and constitutional rights assurances," Della Fave said in a statement. "In no way will it be utilized to mine or develop new criminal investigations."

Police departments in New Jersey started using automated license plate readers in 2010. At the time, then-Attorney General Paula T. Dow wrote a detailed directive with guidelines on the use of the devices.

The guidelines state the information is for law enforcement agency use only and data should be treated as "criminal investigatory records," which can't be released to the public under the state's Open Public Records Act. The data is also kept for up to five years.

The American Civil Liberties Union has condemned the technology, calling it a "tool for mass routine location tracking and surveillance."

"Too many jurisdictions are retaining data on innocent Americans for long periods of time, and the inevitable trend towards greater sharing of this data, it is apparent that there are too few rules in place to ensure that license plate reader technology is not abused," the ACLU said in a July 2013 report.

Della Fave said using license-plate readers is a "major component" of policing post-9/11.

It's unclear how many counties in New Jersey have similar agreements with the DEA. A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office did not immediately return an email seeking that information. 

Alex Napoliello may be reached at anapoliello@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.