Privacy Issues with the planned electronic toll collection of the Golden Ears Bridge

I’m sure the Liberal government thought no one would notice this little tidbit buried on the Vancouver Sun website ON A SUNDAY>>>>ON A HOLIDAY LONG WEEKEND, so I think I have to mention it here, before I start brining my turkey. Read the article by Mary Frances Hill on the Sun website here : http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=673576ca-4ba7-4a01-9615-e351af850d2b

The fantastic new Golden Ears Bridge, that will connect Maple Ridge to Langley, and alleviate traffic congestion in that area, is a toll bridge. And, it will be the first one in Western Canada to collect tolls electronically.

Electronically.

No big deal, right? So just how do these tolls get paid then? Digital cameras and sensors will be installed on the bridge, and record the licence plate and time of crossing of every single vehicle that crosses the bridge. Users will have the option of using a transponder which sits on the dash of the vehicle and given you a reduced price. Those who don’t use it, will be charged more.

Contact information on your residence, etc, will be tracked down through your licence plate number and you get a bill in the mail. Those who do try to cross for free by obscuring their plates… well, that would be illegal so I cannot,in good conscience, endorse that method.

But it does get muddy in the fall/winter here, doesn’t it?   ; )

If you end up having outstanding toll bills, then you won’t be able to re-new your insurance or your drivers licence.

The issue I have, is that in crossing the bridge there a lasting record of your personal information is created somewhere, and Translink says this is usually only accessible by billing agents, but of course RCMP will have free access for investigations as well. Nevertheless, that record contains a whole lot of valuable and sensitive  personal information on YOU that could create problems if it fell into the wrong hands.

So how long does this record of your crossing last?  3 months? A year? Forever?

How deeply will Translink be looking into the past of those billing agents who have access to it and will they have to pass the type of screening that potential Revenue Canada employees must go through( criminal record checks, addresses for the last 7 years, references, rcmp screening) to eliminate any questionable connections? Billing agents would have access to all the information.

How is this information being stored, where is it being held, in what form, and by who? Will they be farming out a contract to an American company like some other government agencies do? If that were so, then your personal information could be subject to the Patriot Act.

*****UPDATE******

Another point brought up by a reader today was something so obvious, but I had completely not touched on. Here is the excerpt from his comment below:

“The use of the transponder should cause you more concern than the license plate…    A transponder however is a different breed of monitor. Just as it passes the receiver on the bridge, your information is susceptible to being “received” anywhere else there is one. Anybody can have a receiver or place one where they think your vehicle may pass. “

Much like the fake credit card/debit card scanner scam. Scary thought, at least to me, but in an excerpt from the article, Ken Hardie of Translink had this to say:

“Hardie said TransLink conducted a privacy impact assessment on Golden Ears bridge tolling, and had it approved by the Freedom of Information and Privacy office in Victoria.

“We’ve taken all the steps to satisfy them [privacy officials]  that the records will be kept and managed in an appropriate way,” he said. “

Somehow this doesn’t make me feel any better. Too much information being collected and held in a time when the personal information as much of a hot commodity in the wrong hands, as drugs or weapons. How will Translink and the BC government be able to ensure information is not inadvertantly picked up by other receivers?

One Comment on “Privacy Issues with the planned electronic toll collection of the Golden Ears Bridge

  1. The use of the transponder should cause you more concern than the license plate. After all, if you lease a vehicle or use your fathers BMW, you lose no privacy in having your license plate recorded just as they are in a gas station when you fill up, or entering the lumber yard for a 2X4. The by-law enforcement entities in various cities have a mobile unit that scans license plates all down the street and then they return after an hour to see if you are in violation of the parking time limit. This unit also checks for stolen vehicles. Storage and other uses?

    The licensing authority in your area has limits on their distribution of registration information and I am sure regulate it as per statute.

    A transponder however is a different breed of monitor. Just as it passes the receiver on the bridge, your susceptible to being “received” anywhere there is one. Anybody can have a receiver or place one where they think your vehicle may pass.

    Your only true safeguard is the Court who minutely examine the origins of any information to ensure that no over zealous authority has gained it by subterfuge. However, the jealous husband or stalker might not have the ultimate goal of getting you into court.