E-ZPass readers are being used for more than just tolls: NYCLU

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(PIX11)-- E-ZPass readers are not just being used at tollbooths anymore, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU).

E-ZPass are devices that scan and read the electronic tags that drivers keep in their cars for the purpose of paying tolls through the E-ZPass system. By signing up for E-ZPass and keeping the tag in the car, drivers can pay their tolls electronically and avoid long lines at toll plazas.

The New York Civil Liberties Union obtained the locations of all E-ZPass readers in New York City, and many of them are nowhere near tollbooths.

The NYCLU found that city and state transportation agencies have set up E-ZPass readers at non-toll booth locations in order to conduct traffic studies.

Source: New York City Department of Transportation FOIL Production (July 11, 2014). New York State Department of Transportation FOIL Production (May 9, 2014). *NYS DOT production revealed seven E-ZPass readers within New York City; all were duplicative of E-ZPass reader locations revealed through NYC DOT production and are not distinguished visually here.

Source: New York City Department of Transportation FOIL Production (July 11, 2014). New York State Department of Transportation FOIL Production (May 9, 2014). *NYS DOT production revealed seven E-ZPass readers within New York City; all were duplicative of E-ZPass reader locations revealed through NYC DOT production and are not distinguished visually here.

Source: New York City Department of Transportation FOIL Production (July 11, 2014). New York State Department of Transportation FOIL Production (May 9, 2014). *NYS DOT production revealed seven E-ZPass readers within New York City; all were duplicative of E-ZPass reader locations revealed through NYC DOT production and are not distinguished visually here.

Source: New York City Department of Transportation FOIL Production (July 11, 2014). New York State Department of Transportation FOIL Production (May 9, 2014). *NYS DOT production revealed seven E-ZPass readers within New York City; all were duplicative of E-ZPass reader locations revealed through NYC DOT production and are not distinguished visually here.

NYC DOT told them in a statement:

“E-ZPass readers are a cost-effective way of ‘detecting segment travel times via matching reader observations at the ends of the segments, sending the raw data back to actually do the matches, and to generate the travel time observations.'”

The NYCLU notes that this is a potential invasion of privacy: “E-ZPass readers – and the accompanying cameras and microwave sensors – installed today for traffic studies can easily become part of an infrastructure for expanded surveillance,” they wrote.

The NYCLU claims that city and state transportation agencies don’t have strong enough privacy policies, and need to do more to make sure data collected is secured and not accessible for unwarranted law-enforcement purposes.

Gloria Chin, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Transportation, told PIX11 in a statement:

"We take our responsibility to protect privacy seriously and that the readers only gather traffic information so we can improve mobility in the city and that the data does not have identifying information."