California’s new toll privacy takes effect

| Monday, December 27, 2010

As of Saturday, Jan. 1, the privacy of drivers using the FasTrak payment system for California toll roads and bridges will be a little bit more protected. The new law is touted as protecting “a person’s right not to be tracked while driving.”

“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 previous statement.

The new law prohibits transportation agencies, such as Caltrans, from selling or sharing personal data. Agencies are also required to purge the data when it is no longer needed.

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.

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 by 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.

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