ACLU Backs Bill to Prevent Use of Toll Payments to Track Travels

News Release: 
Friday, January 22, 2010

Measure would add privacy protections to transit toll payment systems

A hearing was held in the Senate Transportation Committee on Jan. 21, at 1:30 p.m. on a bill (SB 6499) sponsored by Sen. Ed Murray that would prevent government and private parties from tracking individuals' travels based on their use of toll facilities.

The ACLU of Washington supports including privacy protections in legislation that relates to tolling on the SR 520 bridge. Current plans call for the tolling to be all-electronic, using transponders and cameras reading license plates of every vehicle that crosses the bridge. This design raises privacy concerns for people who wish to drive on the bridge without being tracked or having records of their movements and personal information stored in a government database.

Without privacy protections, government and private entities could use toll payment records to deduce an individual's work, recreation, and social patterns, and potentially political activities or medical issues.

The ACLU supports legislation that would prohibit use of toll records for any purpose other than toll collection or toll enforcement. The ACLU also wants to minimize the length of time records for payments are kept and to prevent the reading of toll transponders for surveillance purposes unrelated to toll payments.

A companion bill in the House (HB 2897) is sponsored by Rep. Christine Rolfes.