Tags: ACLU | New York | E-ZPass | devices | vehicles

ACLU: New York City Using E-ZPass Devices to Track Vehicles

By    |   Monday, 27 Apr 2015 02:58 PM

New York City has installed devices throughout the five boroughs that allow officials to systematically collect and read location data about drivers, according to documents obtained by the New York branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"New Yorkers have a right to know if our government is collecting information about us, what they’re doing with it and how long they’re keeping it for," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a press release.

"One piece of information rarely says much about you, but bits and pieces collected over time can paint a detailed portrait of a person their political beliefs, religious affiliations, medical issues and even personal relationships. The documents the NYCLU is releasing provide a glimpse into some of the information the government is collecting on us every day," she continued.

While most drivers assume that the wireless E-ZPass transponder is being read for the purpose of paying tolls they pass through, the ACLU says city and state transportation agencies have placed E-ZPass readers around the state as part of Midtown in Motion, a traffic-management program implemented in 2011 by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

According to a city press release, the system includes 100 microwave sensors, 32 traffic video cameras and E-ZPass readers at 23 intersections that would be used "to measure traffic volumes, congestion, and record vehicle travel times," and would be transmitted wirelessly to the city’s Traffic Management Center to enable officials to identify congestion choke points and clear traffic jams.

The NYCLU gained the information by submitting a Freedom of Information Act request, and has learned that state transportation agencies also have set up E-ZPass readers, including in 149 locations around New York City, as part of traffic studies.

Monday, NYCLU staff lawyer Mariko Hirose reported that the state Department of Transportation with other "entities has set up a similar traffic management program that scans E-ZPass tags on major transportation corridors, away from toll plazas."

The use of technology to monitor the location of vehicles is not a practice confined to New York.

Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal revealed that the Justice Department was in the process of building a national database to track the real-time movement of cars by reading license plates throughout the U.S.

The stated goal of the tracking program, which is administered by the Drug Enforcement Administration, is to assist agents in their efforts to seize cars, cash and other assets of drug traffickers, according to documents obtained by the Journal.

However, the paper notes, the breadth of the program now expands beyond drug crimes and is being used to monitor vehicles for other possible crimes.

The growing use by government of technology to track and record information about drivers has spurred lawmakers to join with the ACLU to draft and introduce legislation aimed at curbing the practice.

In April, the ACLU partnered with Illinois state Rep. Peter Breen, a conservative Republican, to craft a measure that would limit government use of automatic license-plate readers and would impose a 30-day limit on data collected, reported the Belleville News Democrat.

The bill also would prohibit the sale of that data to private companies.

In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe is facing a decision on whether to veto two versions of a bill to restrict police use of surveillance technology, including automatic license plate readers, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

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New York City has installed devices throughout the five boroughs that allow officials to systematically collect and read location data about drivers, according to documents obtained by the New York branch of the American Civil Liberties Union ACLU).
ACLU, New York, E-ZPass, devices, vehicles
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2015-58-27
Monday, 27 Apr 2015 02:58 PM
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