Monday, August 8, 2016

Sunday Globe Special: $peeding Toward Total Surveillance

Remember after 9/11 when they told you all this was for was catching terrorists. People objected and said you could use it for X, Y, and Z, and they said no, no, not doing that. Then,m when you weren't looking (or were not being shown by the pre$$)....

"What those gantries on the Pike are secretly doing" by Matt Rocheleau Globe Staff  August 06, 2016

The array of devices on the large, new metal gantries you’ve been driving under along the Massachusetts Turnpike will soon be electronically collecting tolls. But they are already quietly capturing and storing information on how fast you’ve been driving.

Officials with the state Department of Transportation say the data need to be gathered for the new toll system to work properly and that there is no plan to use the data to crack down on speeding motorists.

But privacy advocates worry that the state could change its mind someday. They are also concerned that data captured by electronic tolling could, regardless, wind up being used against drivers, if it is turned over for use in criminal or civil court cases or stolen by hackers.

“This information is very sensitive data showing when and where people traveled and how they were traveling,” said Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. “We need to make sure this data is protected.”

I'd rather it not be collected at all, but....

The network of gantries, which has been in test mode since the start of June and is scheduled to go live in October, will replace tollbooths on the Pike as the state makes the transition to all-electronic, open-road tolling.

Drivers will no longer have to stop, or even slow down, to pay tolls. Instead, vehicles with E-ZPass transponders will be charged automatically when they pass under sensors installed on the gantries.

You might want to hit the brakes though, and total tracking is as E-Z as a transponder.

Tyranny has always been sold to subject populations under the guise of security and convenience. Who could be against that? 

And if you have to give up your rights to do it? Aaaah!

Vehicles without transponders will have their license plates photographed by cameras mounted on the gantries, and a bill will be mailed to car owners.

I'll stay off the toll roads at all costs.

MassDOT spokeswoman Jacquelyn Goddard said in an e-mail that the “primary reason” for capturing and storing speed and other toll transaction data “is to bill the customer correctly.” On the question of why speed data is needed to do that, Goddard referred the Globe to technical passage from a project contract indicating the data are used to synchronize cameras that record each license plate.

Another reason to capture the data is for research, Goddard said.

“Noncustomer identifying transaction data is also being stored in the interest of identifying traffic patterns,” she said.

The data are being stored indefinitely, at least for now. But MassDOT’s record-keeping practices may change.

The department said it plans to seek guidance from the state Records Conservation Board to determine what it should keep and for how long. 

Oh, it's a matter of public record now.

“Until RCB approval of the length of time to store the data is received, MassDOT will continue to collect and retain speed data,” Goddard said. “Once the RCB provides guidance, MassDOT will act accordingly and purge the MassDOT system of all data that no longer needs to be retained.”

The department views keeping all the data as the best solution for now, officials said. It is forbidden for state agencies to destroy records without approval of the board, which sets standards for the management and preservation of government records in Massachusetts.

“MassDOT has made this decision out of an abundance of caution to ensure MassDOT is within whatever amendments may be made by the RCB,” Goddard said.

Crockford said she and her colleagues at the ACLU this past week filed a public records request with the Transportation Department asking for its policy on the collection and handling of electronic tolling data.

I wonder how much they will have to pay to get records we all paid for.

The move to all-electronic, open-road tolling statewide began two years ago when the switch was made on the Tobin Bridge. Officials from the Transportation Department did not respond to questions from the Globe about whether that system has also been collecting speed data.

Do you $ee this coming?

In other contexts, and particularly for cellphone users, leaving trails of data has become almost a routine part of contemporary life — one that many people think little about.

The phone is in the seat next to you as you drive by on your way to wherever.

Still, Crockford said the state should be more transparent with the Pike-driving public about what exactly is being collected and what is being done to protect the data from hackers and to limit access to the data by state employees, law enforcement officials, and lawyers.

“Information like this in a centralized database is a target for hackers and it could also be used internally by people at the Department of Transportation,” said Crockford.

“If I’m a divorce lawyer, I might want to know if my client’s husband got off a certain exit at a certain time,” she added. “And law enforcement could have plenty of reasons to want access to this information.”

E-ZPass records have been used in court cases before, including in Massachusetts, according to many media reports.

Goddard, the Transportation Department spokeswoman, acknowledged that the agency would surrender toll transaction data if it was “legally required to do so, for example, in the event MassDOT would receive a subpoena for information.”

Crockford said there’s always the fear that, down the line, the Transportation Department or other state leaders may change course and decide they do want to use the speed data to ticket drivers.

Especially when they are constantly looking for new revenue sources so they can funnel even more millions into going corporate concerns.

She said her organization is still researching whether current laws allow the state to use electronic tolling data to issue tickets for speeding or other traffic infractions. But, citing existing language in a state statute, she said it appears the data could not be used for such purposes without action by lawmakers.

State law says that MassDOT “shall maintain the confidentiality of all information including, but not limited to, photographs or other recorded images and credit and account data relative to account holders who participate in its electronic toll collection system. Such information shall not be a public record . . . and shall be used for enforcement purposes only with respect to toll collection regulations.”

The collection of speed data from the Pike gantries was first reported by

They scooped the Globe, huh? 

Why am I even reading this pos anymore?

Elsewhere in the country, automated technology is used to ticket speeeding drivers. Illinois, Maryland, and Oregon use speed cameras in construction zones, and communities across 12 other states and Washington, D.C., also use speed cameras, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

But automated speed enforcement has generated controversy amid claims it is unconstitutional and an invasion of privacy, prompting some jurisdictions to stop doing it.

Thirteen states have passed laws prohibiting the use of speed cameras, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. The group lists Massachusetts as one of 28 states with no law specifically addressing the use of speed cameras.

Which way they gonna turn?


RelatedPolice arrest man who allegedly drove more than 100 mph on Rte. 6

Good thing they had a camera on Goldstein.

You got any change on you?

"No cash allowed: Stores refusing to accept money" by Megan Woolhouse Globe Staff  August 04, 2016

As technology allows us to make purchases with a barcode scan or an iPad click, more and more retail outlets, restaurants in particular, are experimenting with no-cash policies. They join parking garages and state toll roads in shunning cash payments in favor of credit cards or scanners.

Why hunt for a greenback when you can open an app?

But there’s a significant hitch to this trend: Refusing to accept cash is illegal in Massachusetts. A state law on the books since 1978 states that no retailer “shall discriminate against a cash buyer by requiring the use of credit.” Federal law leaves the choice up to states.

The section of the Massachusetts law is so little known that the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation makes no mention of it on its website, and several consumer watchdogs said they’d never heard of it. The attorney general’s office, which is tasked with enforcing the law, did not provide details about it.

Barbara Anthony, former undersecretary for the consumer affairs office, said the rule raises legitimate concerns as a younger generation increasingly opts for new forms of payment and retail outlets begin to reinvent the cash register. The trend may be in its infancy, but it’s never too early to consider the ramifications of credit-only policies.

“You want to make sure in the process of this transition to a cashless economy that consumers are not obligated to assume credit,” Anthony said. “We probably need some kind of sensible regulation around these transactions to protect consumers.”

You $ee where we are going, although I do wonder how the government drug smugglers are going to launder money and how political lobbyists will deliver campaign cash. 

Maybe the law will carve out some exceptions.

Not all cashless outposts are young upstarts. Several downtown Boston parking garages have gone cash-free; tolling on Massachusetts highways will be all-electronic in the fall — with those who lack transponders receiving a bill in the mail — and the MBTA has said it wants to phase out paying with cash on trains and buses.

Globe took that for a Sunday drive.

The question is whether these operations count as retail establishments.

Ryan C. Kearney, a lawyer at the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said there is no catchall definition for the term “retail” in state law, but the courts have generally defined a retailer as a “person (or business) who sells, offers or exposes for sale, or has in his possession with intent to sell, tangible goods or services.”

Association president Jon B. Hurst said garages and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority might not be considered retail. “I’m guessing not,” he said.

Edgar Dworsky, a consumer advocate and founder of the website, said that beyond legalities, cashless policies create additional costs for business owners, along with privacy and identify-theft concerns.

Retailers pay a fee every time a customer swipes a card and often recover those costs by raising prices, passing the costs on to consumers. That’s partly why so many small businesses — think the North End’s Modern Bakery — have held fast to strict, old-world, cash-only policies.

“However you pay should be OK,” Dworsky said. “But cash should be an option.”

The National Retail Federation agrees. Vice president J. Craig Shearman said cash helps retailers hold down prices because the fees they pay credit card companies are typically baked into merchandise prices, making them higher.

Cashless policies may also disproportionately affect low-income consumers, who may have a harder time getting credit and tend to use cash more often.

“Turning down cash is not something we would recommend,” Shearman said. “The credit card industry has been very successful at brainwashing consumers into thinking plastic is the same as cash. It’s not.”

But because the rules are murky, so is the question of enforcement. Despite being tasked with enforcing the law requiring a cash option, Attorney General Maura Healey’s office issued a statement offering little guidance.

I guess she is busy with other things right now.

“Our office hopes that we can encourage new technologies while striking a balance that allows all consumers to fully participate in our society,” the statement said. A spokeswoman declined to comment further....


I wouldn't have been eating there anyway. 

Do need to get some money though:

"By day, David A. Barker and Efrain Montero worked together at a Chelmsford moving company, setting up and taking down corporate offices. By night, authorities say, they ran a sophisticated theft ring, disabling alarm systems and drilling holes through walls to haul away cash and electronics from ATMs and stores across New England....."

I'm starting to think we should get rid of cash. 

Then there would be no more need for the Federal Reserve printing presses or usurious loaning of money to the government. They can start regulating it like the Constitution says and distribute it all free of interest, even if electronic.

Time to hit the gas....