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    Contra Costa Times: Bay transportation panel supports forcing motorists to report mileage, privacy fears aroused

    As it becomes easier to track and gather data on individuals, there has been a rise in proposals to use such data for the greater good. A few weeks ago in an interview, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood suggested the idea of taxing drivers based on their mileage, which would require the tracking of individual drivers through technology such as GPS. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs quickly announced that such a tracking and taxing plan “is not and will not be the policy of the Obama administration.”

    Now, the Contra Costa Times reports that California is considering “a proposal to chart global warming gases from California cars and trucks by requiring motorists to report odometer readings during annual vehicle registrations.” However, the legislation promoted by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner “is meeting resistance from those worried about drivers’ privacy.” (Skinner rejected the idea that this proposal would lead to mileage-based taxes, saying, “A mileage tax would hurt low-income people who can’t afford housing near their jobs.”)

    Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, has proposed the odometer reporting law, saying California needs to estimate miles traveled to succeed in its pioneering drive to control global warming gases — much which comes from vehicles.

    But even some who want to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases said the state needs to ensure that the information will not be released publicly or used to compel individuals to drive less.

    “This is the issue of Big Brother watching us,” said Amy Worth, an Orinda city councilwoman on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, or MTC, a regional planning and funding agency. “I want more information on how the privacy issues will be addressed before I support this.” […]

    [Randy Renstchler, the commission’s legislative affairs director,] said the commission has experience in keeping drivers’ information private through its Fastrak electronic toll collection program. Except in rare occasions involving subpoenas or search warrants the commission will not disclose motorists” bridge crossing data.

    I wonder if California drivers know that electronic poll data, which shows where and when individual cars pass through specific toll areas, could be used against them. Would individuals still choose convenience over privacy if they knew this cost?

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