Capturing licence plates: police-citizen interaction apps from an EU data protection perspective

Jonida Milaj*, Gerard Jan Ritsema van Eck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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A Pokémon Go-like smartphone app called ‘Automon’ was unveiled in October 2017 as one of several new initiatives to increase the public’s contribution and engagement in police investigations in the Netherlands. Automon is designed in the form of a game that instigates participants to photograph license plates to find out if a vehicle is stolen. The participants in the game score points for each license plate photographed, and may also qualify for a financial reward if a vehicle is actually stolen. In addition, when someone reports that a vehicle has been recently stolen, game participants that are in the vicinity receive a push notification and are tasked with searching for that particular vehicle and license plate. This paper studies the example of the Automon app and contributes to the existing debate on crowdsourced surveillance and the involvement of individuals in law enforcement activities from an EU law perspective. It analyses the lawfulness of initiatives that proactively require individuals to be involved in law enforcement activities and confronts them for the first time with European Union (EU) data protection standards. It is concluded that the Automon app design does not meet the new legal standards.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Review of Law, Computers & Technology
Issue number1
Early online date15-Apr-2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Police Directive
  • GDPR
  • Smartphone application
  • Participatory surveillance
  • Surveillance
  • Crowdsourcing
  • ANPR

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