Flock Safety Faces Legal Trouble as AI-Powered License Plate Readers Violate State Laws, Putting Driver Safety at Risk

Tampa, Florida – Flock Safety, a company that uses AI-powered license plate readers for law enforcement purposes, has come under fire for violating state laws related to driver safety. According to local officials in multiple states, Flock installed surveillance cameras without the necessary permits, posing potential safety risks.

In February 2023, Flock installed AI surveillance cameras on John’s Pass Bridge in Florida on behalf of the Treasure Island Police Department. However, the cameras were flagged for breaking state rules as they were placed without approval from the Florida Department of Transportation. The department later requested the removal of the camera, which was eventually taken down by a Flock employee in November.

This incident is not an isolated one. It is just one of many instances where Flock has been found to violate state laws in its rush to install surveillance cameras without clear regulatory frameworks. Through public records requests and interviews with former employees, it has been revealed that Flock repeatedly broke the law in at least five states, leading to the banning of camera installations in two states.

One of the main issues has been Flock’s habit of installing cameras along public roadways without the necessary permits. These permits ensure the safe placement of the cameras, preventing them from being compromised by accidents or bad weather. Violations of these permitting requirements can potentially lead to dangerous situations, such as a camera being dislodged and causing harm.

In response to these allegations, Flock spokesperson Josh Thomas stated that the company has a dedicated team for permitting and operates within the bounds of the law to the best of their abilities. However, he acknowledged that there have been instances where Flock did not know when and where to apply for permits due to unclear jurisdictional boundaries. Thomas emphasized that the company tries to address any issues and retroactively obtain permits if needed.

Flock, which was founded in 2017, offers a surveillance system that uses AI to identify vehicles based on make, model, and appearance, rather than just license plate numbers. The company claims to operate in over 4,000 cities in 42 states and has seen significant revenue growth in recent years. However, the company’s success has been marred by its failure to comply with permitting requirements and the ensuing regulatory challenges it faces.

While Flock has faced criticism from state officials, it continues to find support from law enforcement agencies. Police departments have praised the company’s surveillance system for its effectiveness in detecting suspect vehicles and its cost-effectiveness compared to other options in the market.

Flock’s origins can be traced back to CEO Garrett Langley’s previous work in the app industry. Langley and CTO Matt Feury, both former employees of mobile ticketing and events company Experience, joined forces to develop car surveillance technology after a series of robberies in Langley’s neighborhood. The company has since attracted significant investment and expanded its reach across the country.

The permitting issues faced by Flock have resulted in audits of its cameras in several states and the need to apply for new permits or remove cameras that were installed without proper authorization. The company has made efforts to address these problems, including firing its permitting director and seeking resolution with transportation officials.

In conclusion, Flock Safety’s rapid growth has been accompanied by a series of permitting violations, raising concerns about the company’s compliance with state laws and safety regulations. While law enforcement agencies have praised the effectiveness of Flock’s surveillance cameras, the company must address the regulatory challenges it faces to ensure the lawful and safe deployment of its technology on public roadways.