Sunday, August 12

EZPASS and Data Sharing

Drudge let loose this little secret about the possibility of your EZPASS toll records being used against you:
Generally mounted inside a vehicle's windshield behind the rearview mirror, E-ZPass devices communicate with antennas at toll plazas, automatically deducting money from the motorist's prepaid account.

Of the 12 states in the Northeast and Midwest that are part of the E-ZPass system, agencies in seven states provide electronic toll information in response to court orders in criminal and civil cases, including divorces, according to an Associated Press survey.

In four of the 12 states, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, highway authorities release E-ZPass records only in criminal cases. West Virginia parkways authority has no policy. (Divorce attorneys in some cases can still obtain toll records from the other spouse rather than a highway agency.) - WCBSTV
Of course the ACLU is not happy about this:
Some worry that using those records for other purposes is a violation of drivers' privacy.

"When you're marketed for this new convenience, you may not realize there are these types of costs,"
said Nicole Ozer of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia turned Libertarian and privacy rights advocate, said people who want to protect their privacy shouldn't use electronic toll systems.

"People are foolish to buy into these systems without thinking, just because they want to save 20 seconds of time going through a toll booth,"
he said. - WCBSTV
Now the two privacy advocates quoted above seem to imply that you can retain your privacy by not using the EZPASS. Well that is not true. As it so happens, there are cameras in all the tollbooths. In addition to taking your picture, they also read and log your license plate.

Kind of like in this video:

As you can see, they can use this system anywhere they can place a camera. You can use any camera connected to a computer. It is the software that checks the incoming pictures. So any camera that can see your license plate clearly enough, can be logging your plate.

Now I can't confirm if the EZPASS tollbooths are using this or not, but they would be silly not to. At least this Wikipedia entry states that the EXPASS System in at least some states incorporates license plate recognition to check that the transponder in the car is being used in the car it is registered to. You can bet that they are also checking the plates against lists of stolen cars and wanted persons and who knows whatever else.

So even if you don't use the EZPASS, there are still the cameras, and the credit card records for when you buy gas, and don't forget they can track the movement of your mobile phone as well. So, save time and use the EZPASS. There are ways to move about undetected, but you'll have to use someone else's car. Not for anything, but regularly using these toll roads and not signing up for EZPASS probably classes you as a suspicious person for trying to hide your movements. Really, why would your wait in line to pay cash when you can zip through an EZPASS lane? Surely those people have something to hide...


Here is one more video. It is a little dry, but does show the system in use as the police car 'runs' every license plate it reads.



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