The Privacy Argument is a False Alarm

On Valentine's Day the Toronto Star had two full pages about wide-area, GPS-based road pricing and congestion pricing. For a newspaper from a city with a mayor who said “No” in a province with a Premier that said “No”, I am surprised they waste trees on the subject. But I suspect they know that the incumbent leadership will soon be proven wrong by the increasing size and number of the mayor’s potholes and by the decreasing efficacy of the premier’s fuel-tax.

The first article, Made-to-measure road toll system [Mark Toljagic], was positive. Unfortunately, it ended with the usual:
“The elephant in the room is a concern about privacy. ‘(It) begs a lot of questions about the circumstances under which specific movements of specific vehicles could be tracked individually and used against motorists for a variety of reasons,’ says [the CAA’s Edyta] Zdancewicz.”
The second article, Toll roads drive me mad [Jim Kenzie], by an automotive journalist was negative. It too played the same dramatic lever that anyone against road pricing would use:
“Privacy issues should also be top-of-mind here. Do we really want governments to know exactly where we are every second of the day or night? They would never misuse that information, would they?"
Privacy is easily the most visible and most easily exploited argument against road-pricing, especially since the economic argument for pricing has been made over and over and was settled well over a decade ago.

I spoke about this concern and mindset several months ago, after California’s Insurance Commissioner made the same error that Jim Kenzie did: [3 minute MP3]

Your vehicle can only be tracked if a telematics device sends your location out of the car. No-one tracks you if you use a Garmin NUVI or a TomTom to navigate as your location is not broadcast. Road metering systems are the same, they use your position and something called a “pricemap” to calculate what you owe. You can either pay inside the car or elect to send billing data out for credit billing. No one need know you were at the corner of Smith and Wesson at 7:42am on Tuesday. “They” (and you) just need to know that you owe Toronto (the Province, the 407ETR, Impark, GreenP, or Dominion Insurance) $8.12, for that month. And of course, if you don’t agree with the bill, you need a way to get at your data in your car for examination. And these devices are self-enforcing, so that if you tamper, they will send out a message that tattles on you. They STILL do not need to track you. There is no one in this country or the US that wants to be tracked.

And “they” will NEVER get a majority to agree to that.


bigH said...

Are you planning on writing to the editor to reply to their arguments? I hope so.

Bern Grush said...

That was done on line at the newspaper's site. You can see then at the end of each.