tyler butler

Tolls and Cameras

Lots to talk about in this rant. I first heard of the Illinois Governor’s plan to increase tolls in Illinois one day when I was driving to work. And this isn’t a small increase, either – the tolls are doubling! Unless you get an IPASS, of course. The solution, obviously, is to get an IPASS. Unfortunately, that in and of itself presents a bit of a problem. You see, IPASS tracks you. That’s my biggest beef with it. I understand the argument that it “makes things faster” and reduces congestion, but it also records where I go. Check the FAQ at their website. One part reads:

I-PASS users can log onto www.getipass.com or link to the online maintenance function through the general Illinois Tollway Web site at www.illinoistollway.com to update credit card information, add a new vehicle to the account, or even check on recent I-PASS transactions.

This bugs me. I have no intention of ever getting arrested or anything, but if for some reason I was, I’m fairly certain my IPASS records could be pulled and used against me. This makes me angry. And despite the fact that the Tollway Authority says they don’t track users speeds to issue tickets, I don’t trust them. Didn’t RealNetworks claim their player wasn’t spyware at one point? Anyway, you won’t see me buying an IPASS.

The day after I learned about this I decided to finally go and get my Chicago Card, which can be used as a fare card on CTA busses and trains. Since I’m a part-time student now, I don’t get a U-PASS, and I ride the train enough to warrant getting one. But that made me realize the similarities between the Toll situation and the Chicago Card. You no longer get a 10% bonus in funds when you add 10 or more dollars to your regular CTA fare card – you only get the bonus when you have a Chicago Card. But the Chicago Card is tied to your name, so tracking is possible. With the regular fare card, they can track the use of the card, but they can’t tie it to any one person. That’s the way I like it. I submitted a question to the CTA people asking about the privacy and information collection policies of the Chicago Card, and here’s the response I got:

Dear Mr. Butler:

Thank you for your inquiry. The CTA does not track the use of these cards by any individual unless requested by that individual. The Chicago Card Plus does provide its users with an online record of their usage, but each customer has a password of his or her own selection to access the information. The regular Chicago Card does not offer this online service.

If a law enforcement agency wishes to review our records, it can do so with the official, lawful use of a warrant, court order, etc.

Thank you for your interest.


Terry Levin
CTA Customer Service

Unfortunately, this doesn’t really answer my question. So no tracking is done “unless requested?” But what if law enforcement has a warrant to pull their records? Is Mr. Levin saying the information doesn’t exist (i.e. users aren’t tracked), or that it exists and isn’t used for any other purpose other than for posterity’s sake? I don’t know. But it looks like no Chicago Card, Plus or not, for me.

Finally, I came across this story on Slashdot. Apparently the city is considering rolling out a whole bunch of cameras in the city and tying them into the 911 call center. All good, in theory, right? It’ll help deter crime, right? I don’t think so. Why not just put up more street lights? A bright light is the biggest deterrant to random crime. But that would be too simple, I guess. And lights can’t track you.

Do I sound paranoid? I am. I don’t trust the government. They’ve given me no reason to. And government is universally corrupt, be it a national government, a local government, or even a school administration. So it looks like I’ll be paying a lot more than the rest of you for the same services. Yes, it’s my choice, but the government shouldn’t be allowed to charge me for my freedom.

For what it’s worth.