Should I Blur License Plates in my Photos?

by Ryan on January 11, 2014

I recently took a photo of Lambeau Field for my 365 days of lambeau field photography project, and this particular image had a car directly in the frame, with a very easy to read license plate. At first I didn’t think much of it, but then a friend of mine mentioned that I shouldn’t post images online of cars’ license plates.

After a bit of research it seemed that the consensus was the safe thing to do is to blur the license plate. Some people argued otherwise, but mostly I read most people agreeing that it’s not worth it not to blur the plate.

A few of the points that confirmed this in my mind included:

1. Google street view blurs license plates.
You can see this image (near Lambeau in Green Bay) in which the license plate of the SUV in the bottom left hand corner is clearly blurred. As I cruised around Google street view I noticed that they blurred out all license plates. If it’s good enough reason for Google, it’s good enough for me.

Google License Plate Blur

2. “You Can’t Blur out Real Life”
In an article over at jalopnik.com, the author discusses the issue with a police officer who recommends playing it safe and blurring the plate. The writer concludes:

“You may as well obscure your license plate, just to be safe. His attitude was that while it’s not likely the information would be found and misused, it could happen.”

That perspective is the one I’ll be taking since it doesn’t seem worth it to keep the license plate on versus taken a couple seconds to just blur the license plate with Photoshop. Check out how to blur license plates in photoshop to see how I do it.

3. Personal Information can be Obtained via your License Plate
For a fee many DMV offices will give you registered information about the driver of a particular vehicle. That means if you want to know who drives that particular vehicle, you can look it up simply by knowing the plate. This is the crux of the issue, and since privacy is a very touchy issue, I could definitely see someone getting upset about their license plate being plastered around the internet.

Although I couldn’t find any concrete evidence one way or another it seems that it’s more of a courtesy and simply to protect your own butt in case someone gets upset with you for posting their information online.

Based on what I found, I’ve decided it’s worth it (for me) to blur out license plate images to avoid any potential risk associated with posting information online that may cause issues down the road.

**I am in no way giving advice on this topic, and am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination.

If you know any more details about whether or not you should blur an image of a license plate in your photos, please share in the comments below. I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

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