Following review of testimony last week before the House Finance Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island today raised privacy concerns regarding the lack of information surrounding the technology that will be used to implement the proposed legislation establishing tolls on tractor-trailers traveling through the state. The ACLU urged Rhode Island lawmakers to ensure drivers’ privacy is protected in the law.
According to testimony by DOT Director Peter Alviti, adoption of the current toll proposal will bring “sensing devices” installed along the roads to allow law enforcement to track vehicle movements, ostensibly to charge tolls on certain trucks and penalize toll evaders. However, the details regarding this technology have not been widely discussed or explained in any detail. It appears these devices will record information from not just trucks subject to tolls, but every vehicle passing through. The technology, the ACLU says, seems similar to automated license plate readers, which capture and record the license plate information, date, time and GPS location of every vehicle on the road. Such technology thus paints a complete picture of the movements of all vehicles traveling through the gantries. Neither current state law nor the proposed legislation limit the use, access to, or storage of this data, allowing severe intrusions onto individual privacy.
“In light of the serious impact on privacy this technology may have, it is critical that privacy safeguards be adopted long before a single gantry is erected,” Hillary Davis, policy associate of the ACLU of Rhode Island said today.
The ACLU is encouraging legislators to adopt language explicitly restricting use and access to the data solely for the purpose of addressing toll scofflaws, and that any data collected belonging to vehicles not subject to tolls be deleted instantaneously. Similar amendments are expected to be proposed during today’s House floor debate.
“While some opponents of this legislation have expressed concern that it could in the future be applied to cars, the privacy impact of this bill on all automobile drivers could be felt immediately. We urge the adoption of safeguards to ensure that the final version of this legislation does not compromise all Rhode Islanders’ privacy for the sake of collecting tolls on trucks,” said Davis.