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Privacy outcry over traffic monitoring


Date: 2015-06-17

Commuters using the San Francisco Bay area electronic toll system have new privacy concerns as the system extends its tracking of vehicles. With a new $37 million enhancement, the system will soon be able to do much more that track tolls. Additional, radio-based sensors mounted on highway signs every few miles will add a new function to the transponders commuters use for toll tracking and payment.

Each of the sensors has two antennas. One continually sends out a radio pulse that detects when a transponder is passing. The other notes the transponder's serial number, and transmits it via cellular modem to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Travel Information Center in Oakland. The information is encrypted, but this doesn't assuage the concerns of some motorists who don't like the idea that so much information about their movements is being collected. The MTC says it is going to great lengths to keep the information separate and ensure that it is only used to improve traffic management.

The only way to avoid triggering the sensors throughout nine Bay Area counties is to stash the transponder in its accompanying Mylar bag. One commuter says he will do this between tolls. However, for the automotive telematics industry, this is just another development in a system of communication that will offer drivers and traffic managers the ability to reduce congestion and help drivers get around quicker.

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