For the past 20 years, multiple agencies have been tracking cars with E-ZPass tags no where near a toll booth
March 24, 2014
New York traffic agencies are tracking motorists across the state by connecting to their toll tags mounted to their windshields, even when the drivers are no where near a toll booth.
Both the New York City Department of Transportation and Transcom, a traffic management agency, admitted that for nearly 20 years they have been using antennas to connect to E-ZPass toll tags in vehicles driving across more than 3,000 miles of public, non-toll roads, not just in New York but neighboring states as well.
“We’re being watched in ways that I think none of us would have imagined,” Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told WBGO.org. “It’s happening without any public scrutiny, without any decision that’s consistent with checks and balances.”
A privacy advocate discovered the massive size of the program after he created a device that alerted him every time his toll tag connected to an antenna.
“I took my E-ZPass and figured out how to let me know when it was transmitting,” he stated. “Then I reverse engineered the E-ZPass protocol radio.”
Even when he drove down roads no where near a toll booth, his device went off multiple times. He realized that the agencies were purposely installing toll tag readers hidden under regular traffic signs to track drivers as they drove through.
Not surprisingly, the E-ZPass terms and conditions state nothing about the tracking program which was not previously announced to the public.
“New Yorkers have a right to know what the purpose is, whether it’s improper and the right to insist that our elected officials reign in this practice,” Liberman also said.
Unfortunately, elected officials across the country are doing the exact opposite.
As we reported in January, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is pushing for new vehicles sold in the U.S. to be equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems – known as V2V for short – which would allow them to “talk” to each other through GPS data under the guise of “accident prevention.”
An official at the Government Accountability Office, David Wise, even said that the V2V could be used to track individuals.
“Privacy is a real challenge,” he stated.
But bureaucrats are completely unconcerned about privacy, especially if violating it means additional revenue from taxing drivers for every mile driven.
And these surveillance programs aren’t just limited to private vehicles. Last week, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced its plan to install thousands of audio and video recorders on its commuter trains.