More Driving Big Brother

Declan McCullagh at CNET offers his commentary on the latest example of “driving big brother”: GPS tracking of vehicles in support of mileage-based road user fees. From his commentary:

In principle, the idea of what bureaucrats like to call “value pricing” for cars makes sound economic sense.

Airlines and hotels have long charged less for off-peak use. Toll roads would be more efficient–in particular, less congested–if they could follow the same model and charge virtually nothing in the middle of the night but high prices during rush hour.
That price structure would encourage drivers to take public transportation, use alternate routes, or leave earlier or later in the day.

The problem, though, is that these “road user fee” systems are being designed and built in a way that strips drivers of their privacy and invites constant surveillance by police, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

[…] The problem…is that no privacy protections exist. No restrictions prevent police from continually monitoring, without a court order, the whereabouts of every vehicle on the road.

No rule prohibits that massive database of GPS trails from being subpoenaed by curious divorce attorneys, or handed to insurance companies that might raise rates for someone who spent too much time at a neighborhood bar. No policy bans police from automatically sending out speeding tickets based on what the GPS data say.

The Fourth Amendment provides no protection. The U.S. Supreme Court said in two cases, U.S. v. Knotts and U.S. v. Karo, that Americans have no reasonable expectation of privacy when they’re driving on a public street.

For more on the topic, see some of my recent papers and conference presentations.

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