Toll privacy bill heads to Schwarzenegger

| 8/27/2010

A bill on its way to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk would protect the privacy of drivers using the FasTrak payment system for toll roads and bridges.

The Assembly voted 57-13 to approve the bill that is touted as protecting “a person’s right not to be tracked while driving.” Senators signed off on changes, which cleared the way for the bill to move to the governor’s desk.

“There’s just no reason for a government agency to track the movements of Californians, let alone maintain that information in a database forever and ever,” Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said in a statement.

Simitian’s bill – SB1268 – prohibits transportation agencies, such as Caltrans, from selling or sharing personal data. It also requires agencies to purge the data when it is no longer needed. In addition, it ensures that FasTrak subscribers are given notice of the privacy practices affecting them.

The requirements also apply to other toll collection systems.

Currently, the system creates a travel and billing record for drivers who pass a FasTrak-equipped toll booth. For truckers, the system is used to pluck $11.25 from their accounts each time they cross one of seven state-owned Bay Area bridges.

Simitian cautioned that the FasTrak cards are read by traffic monitoring systems throughout the area and elsewhere in the state to measure congestion. Cameras are also used to verify toll compliance by all drivers – even those who pay by cash rather than use FasTrak.

“The net result is that relatively obscure transportation agencies have personal data and travel histories for well over a million Californians, with no real meaningful legal protection from misuse of or inappropriate access to the data,” Simitian said.

Anyone who has their personal information sold or improperly released would be able to sue to recover a minimum of $2,500 in damages.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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