Traffic monitoring system raises privacy concerns

| Monday, August 12, 2002

In about a month, traffic sensors being installed along San Francisco Bay area highways will enable travelers to gain real-time information about road congestion via cell phone, radio or Internet, AP reports.

Proponents say the $37 million addition to the region's FasTrak electronic toll system is a good thing, but the "enhancement" is raising fears that drivers' privacy will be invaded.

Under the system, radio-based sensors are being mounted on highway signs every few miles - and monitoring is not optional for FasTrak users. The only way to avoid triggering the sensors throughout nine Bay Area counties is to stash the transponder in its accompanying Mylar bag.

Meanwhile, court cases where transponder data has been used are adding to privacy concerns.

In 1997, E-ZPass records helped show what kidnappers did to New Jersey restaurant millionaire Nelson Gross, whose BMW crossed the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan, where his beaten corpse was found.

Another case involved a Connecticut rental car company that charged customers $150 each time a GPS receiver showed they were speeding. The company has since stopped the practice.

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