As the article points out, this isn't just a matter of the government taking pictures of license plates. Commercial enterprises and individuals also make use of this technology (you could sort of imagine a good business case for using these for parking enforcement and security in office parks, say, never mind the much more entertaining -- for fiction writing purposes -- use by a personal security firm).
Why _can't_ I take pictures of licenses plates, have software that automates the process of reading what is on the plate and then stores that information? Can I do it with pen and paper? And what's the difference, anyway, other than money in the pocket of DRN?
Article is from February and they were seeking preliminary injunctive relief. The suit is part of a larger strategy; they took on Arkansas a few months later:
That article indicates Utah amended their law:
"TechDirt believes Arkansas will have a high hurdle to leap in proving that it is not discriminating against DRN’s and Vigilant’s right to free speech, and notes that Utah had to heavily amend its law to get the companies to drop the suit. Utah now allows private entities to collect and sell license plate data to other third parties (which government agencies are prohibited from doing), and allows for the companies to hold the information for up to nine months."
I understand that TechDirt is skeptical of the idea that these automated systems are just like doing it in a more labor intensive and manual way, but I would invite TechDirt to contemplate what, precisely, is the difference between any automated process vs. one entirely dependent on human labor. There's a difference, for sure. Commercial viability. But commercial viability isn't really a factor in privacy considerations, much less first amendment considerations.
A short list of uses for ALPR: http://miovision.com/blog/awesome-alpr-applications/