July 11 (UPI) -- A company that operates several California malls shares customers' license plate information to local police, a report by privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation said.
The Irvine Company operates 46 shopping centers across California and uses surveillance technology vendor Vigilant Solutions to monitor cars in its parking lots in three of its locations. Vigilant Solutions then sells data it collects to local law enforcement, the EFF report said.
Vigilant uses Automated License Plate Recognition as a "form of mass surveillance" to gather information by converting plates into plain text characters and appending a time, date and GPS location.
"This data is usually fed into a database, allowing the ALPR operator to search for a particular vehicle's travel patterns or identify visitors to a particular location. By adding certain vehicles to a 'hot list,' an operator can receive near-real time alerts on a person's whereabouts," the report states.
The Irvine Company confirmed using Vigilant Solutions, acknowledged its role in the collecting and selling of location data and said it's used to safeguard communities.
"Vigilant is required by contract, and have assured us, that ALPR data collected at these locations is only shared with local police departments as part of their efforts to keep the local community safe," the Irvine Company said in a statement.
The locations where data is collected and shared with law enforcement are all in Orange County and include the Irvine Spectrum Center, Fashion Island in Newport Beach and The Marketplace in Tustin.
The EFF report said Vigilant Solutions also allows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to use its database via a contract it signed with the agency in January. A spokesman for The Irvine Company, though, told Buzzfeed News that data is given only to local law enforcement agencies, not ICE.