The Providence Journal in Rhode Island reports on privacy questions with a new E-Z Pass system (RFID-enabled toll payment system).
Using E-ZPass involves a transponder, or “tag,” mounted on the car and a prepaid account linked to the tag, from which the system deducts tolls as they are incurred. The toll data is linked to the vehicle owner’s name, address and other personal information.
Privacy advocates object that electronic toll collection means that drivers leave an electronic record, down to the minute, wherever they pay a toll. In Rhode Island, that means there’s a record of the date and time when they crossed the Pell Bridge, the state’s only toll plaza.
But the record also includes where and when they pay tolls anywhere E-ZPass is honored. That area stretches from Maine to Virginia to Illinois. […]
Could E-ZPass data allow the police to trace a vehicle across states, for example from Rhode Island to Virginia, the southern-most E-ZPass state?
“Ideally, yes,” said James Crawford, executive director of the E-ZPass Interagency Group, which coordinates the network from Atlantic City. He said the data is available in two or three days, after the transactions have cleared the system.
Data gathered by E-Z Pass systems has been used for a variety of purposes other than toll collection.
Toll data also has been used in civil and criminal court cases elsewhere. In divorce cases, the records can puncture claims about who was where, and when. Massachusetts prosecutors used E-ZPass records to trace Sean Fitzpatrick, a suspect in a 2006 double murder case. The police said he stole a pickup truck whose owner had an E-ZPass tag, leaving a trail through three tolls driving toward the murder scene, and then through the same ones leaving it.