Civil Liberties

Covered at Reason 24/7: Automated Tolls Track Everybody Crossing Golden Gate Bridge


Reason 24/7

You have to run an intrusive  security gauntlet to board an airplane. Gone are the days of traveling Amtrak anonymously — the nation's skanky, money-losing, publicly owned railroad now requires photo identification to buy a ticket. You even have to show ID for most bus lines. But, at least you can get behind the wheel of your car and travel the roads with some anonymity. You can cruise— What's that? Oh, never mind. Starting this week, almost everybody crossing the Golden Gate bridge must submit to identification by either RFID or by license-plate recognition cameras hooked into the Department of Motor Vehicles database. There is a provision for anonymous FasTrak accounts, but it's neither convenient nor widely advertised.

Happy motoring.

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Yesterday, the Golden Gate Bridge switched to all-electronic tolling. As of March 27, drivers entering San Francisco no longer have the option to pay the $6 cash toll to a human toll collector. Unfortunately, all of the bridge's electronic payment options track the identities of those paying the toll, and all represent a loss of privacy for visitors or commuters entering San Francisco by car. The current implementation of electronic tolling here (and elsewhere) is unnecessarily privacy-invasive and represents a missed opportunity to collect tolls electronically in more privacy-friendly ways.

Since March 27, motorists entering San Francisco have three different payment options. One option involves recognizing an RFID token in the motorist's vehicle, while the remaining two use a camera to photograph and recognize the license plate. (A cute new animation from the bridge operator explains the options, though not their privacy consequences.)

Don't miss Reason's coverage of the spreading use of license-plate cameras on roads hither and yon in this great, non-anonymous country.

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