NYC Tracking E-ZPass Tags All Over The City, Without Telling Drivers
from the big-brother-is-watching dept
However, it turns out that New York City has had an ongoing program to surreptitiously scan the tags in a variety of places supposedly for monitoring traffic. Indeed, you could see how that sort of traffic information might be useful, though these days with many other forms of traffic monitoring systems out there, it's probably a lot less necessary than before. But this was only discovered because a hacker going by the name Puking Monkey (one assumes this was not his given name) got suspicious and hacked up an E-ZPass to light up and make a sound whenever it was read. Then he drove around Manhattan, and voila, the tag kept going off:
The technology company that makes the devices insists that it's not being used for any surveillance:
“The tag ID is scrambled to make it anonymous. The scrambled ID is held in dynamic memory for several minutes to compare with other sightings from other readers strategically placed for the purpose of measuring travel times which are then averaged to develop an understanding of traffic conditions,” says TransCore spokesperson Barbara Catlin by email. “Travel times are used to estimate average speeds for general traveler information and performance metrics. Tag sightings (reads) age off the system after several minutes or after they are paired and are not stored because they are of no value. Hence the system cannot identify the tag user and does not keep any record of the tag sightings.”Of course, even if that is true today, that doesn't mean it will always be true. We're already well aware of how the NYPD is known for the extreme lengths it will go in terms of surveillance, including the fact that it's set up its own intelligence division that many say rivals the intelligence operations of entire nations. Since the folks behind E-ZPass didn't seem to think it was necessary to tell people that their devices would be used for traffic monitoring, how likely is it that anyone would be told if it was used for surveillance as well?