June 13, 2024

BIG BROTHER ON YOUR TRIP

Ready for a summer vacation?  Car packed, airline tickets at hand?  You may not realize it, but Big Brother’s coming along with you.  However you chose to travel, don’t expect to have much privacy.

BY CAR:      I’ve written for years about how E-ZPass tracks your journey, not just your tolls.  And those new gantries built in Manhattan for now-on-hold congestion pricing?  I’d just assume they’re still activated, if not collecting fees.


How about those new super-LPRs (License Plate Readers) that the NY-NJ Port Authority has installed on all bridges into and out of Staten Island?  They track every single vehicle with that data stored for who knows how long.  The NYPD says they’ve already seen a 30% reduction in stolen cars from that outer-most borough, so expect that tech to come to other NYC bridges and tunnels.

Several Connecticut towns are also installing permanent LPRs at their borders to track stolen vehicles.  That data on your comings and goings is also preserved.

On Connecticut’s interstates and parkways there are cameras everywhere.  You can even watch them online.  Red light and speed cameras are now coming to Connecticut.  And in some cities they’re experimenting with stop sign cameras.

Your car is also monitoring how you drive and sharing that data with insurance companies.  The computers inside your engine (and the apps on your phone) collect a lot of information about your acceleration and braking and they “monetize” (sell) the data to insurance companies without your knowledge.

BY TRAIN & SUBWAY:     Metro-North may not have Wi-Fi, but they sure have cameras recording in every car, while many towns also have cameras on every train platform.  And soon every NYC subway train and station will be similarly equipped.  Were they to use facial recognition software, the authorities could track the identity and whereabouts of anyone on the system just as they do in China.

Swipe a MetroCard or use OMNY to ride the subway?  There’s a record of that, too.  And with the MTA losing $800 million to fare evasion, will it be long before AI starts identifying the scofflaws?

ON FOOT / BIKE:   In New York City, there are 18,000 CCTV cameras almost everywhere.  Have you ever noticed how quickly cops can post video of street crime, almost anytime and anywhere?  You are being watched.

BY AIR:        Your airline and the TSA require you to provide a legal ID every time you fly.  And now some airlines are using facial recognition software instead of boarding passes to climb onboard.  ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) also use that software when you enter the country.  And your passport… did you know it has an RFID chip embedded in the cover?  What information is stored on there?


In most European countries residents are required to carry a government issued ID card at all times and to produce it on request of authorities.  Skeptics have always said such oversight would never come to the US, but is the tech I described above any different?  In fact, it’s better, confirming not only your identity but your exact location minute by minute.

Have a great trip.

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