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    Providence Journal: Is EZ-Pass infringing on people’s privacy?

    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.

    The ACLU of Rhode Island points out that there is no law to protect the privacy of this data. Therefore, access to and use of the data is governed only by the contract from the state to the E-Z Pass company. And the public cannot see or know what’s in the state’s written privacy policy for E-Z Pass data. When the Providence Journal asked for a copy of the policy, James Crawford, executive director of the E-ZPass Interagency Group, said, “I’m not going to give it to you.”

    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.

    4 Responses to “Providence Journal: Is EZ-Pass infringing on people’s privacy?”

    1. Stephen Meltzer Says:

      The point not made here is that E-Z Pass is completely voluntary. One need not subscribe to E-Z Pass in order to use the toll roads, one need not use the toll roads to reach a destination (as alternate routes always exist) and even if subscribed to E-Z Pass, it is not necessary that the transponder is used for any particular trip.

      In other words, if you don’t want to be tracked, opt out. If you opt in by using the E-Z Pass, be aware that you may be traceable. If, on the other hand, there were no other routes to travel to a destination, or if E-Z Pass were mandatory for using the toll roads, the conclusion would be different.

    2. Privacy Lives Says:

      Thanks for commenting.

      Yes, currently E-Z Pass is voluntary. But it’s not about the technology. It’s about protecting the data itself — whether gathered by E-Z Pass, license-plate recognition systems, or GPS tracking devices. People are being tracked as they move, the data retained and used for reasons far beyond original purposes.

      Often, people don’t know about these other uses, making it difficult for them to understand what they’re giving up in exchange for the convenience of E-Z Pass or other tech. I think it’s especially disturbing that the privacy policy for the E-Z Pass data isn’t made public. How can people make informed decisions if needed information is withheld?

    3. jason wan kinobi Says:

      “The point not made here is that E-Z Pass is completely voluntary. One need not subscribe to E-Z Pass in order to use the toll roads, one need not use the toll roads to reach a destination (as alternate routes always exist) and even if subscribed to E-Z Pass, it is not necessary that the transponder is used for any particular trip.”

      do you not see that- like other “electronic” technology it is potentially going to be made a requirement over time. (direct deposit for the bank started out being voluntary…. now its not an option for many companies. ) THIS MIGHT NOT ALWAYS BE A CHOICE!!!

      this is a civil problem. i hope eventually i dont have an EZ pass system in my sons forehead.

    4. jason wan kinobi Says:

      i will drive my car up the guys ass who invented EZ pass.. lets see if he traces that. or if i will need to pay a toll

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