Slog - The Stranger's Blog

Line Out

The Music Blog

« Tighty Whitey Toast | Small-Town Pleasures »

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Progressive Policy vs. Privacy

Posted by on March 29 at 14:04 PM

An interesting debate is going on in Oregon, where 280 paid volunteers have agreed to have their cars fitted with GPS systems that will track how many miles they’re driving and tax them accordingly. (The pricing scheme differentiates in-state and out-of-state and between rush-hour and non-rush-hour miles, which is why a simple odometer reading won’t do.) Because gas mileage in new cars is improving, the state wants to tax miles driven rather than gas consumed. However, systems like the one in Oregon could pave the way for congestion pricing, in which drivers are charged more for driving on certain roads or at certain times of day, or mileage-based insurance, which environmental advocates argue is a far more progressive method of insuring cars than a flat per-vehicle fee.

However: Privacy advocates are concerned that the GPS systems could be used to track a driver’s whereabouts, and that mileage records could be subpoenaed and used against a driver in court (to determine whether a criminal suspect is lying about his alibi, for example, or by a suspicious spouse in a divorce). Although Oregon officials say all data will be erased, David Sucher and others have pointed out that nothing is ever really erased in a technologically sophisticated, post-Patriot Act America. Is this a bad thing? Hard to say. Technology has always tested, and frequently surmounted, the limits of traditional notions of privacy, to the point that we think nothing of handing our credit-card information to unseen online merchants, or carrying bar-coded, scannable licenses with us everywhere we go.

More on the privacy implications of mileage-based systems can be found here.

CommentsRSS icon


Fuck this shit big time - automated toll road collection gives me the heebie jeebies for the same reason (I suppose they can always go through thousands of hours of camera footage to read your individual license - but that's a lot less likely than one-stop digital shopping for all of your travel info if you're automatically entered in a database).

PSRC is doing the same thing. I was initially called to particpate in the program but we don't drive enough during peak hours (bus commutes) so we got booted out of the test program.

People should consider this a little more before just passing it off as big brother. We should try to see if we can work out the privacy issues before we dismiss it outright.

I like the concept. User pays. Use more, pay more. Tax the heck out of rush hour drivers on key parts of the road, and the congestion problems on highways would go away. Encourages NOT driving. Encourages bike riding, bus use. Forces drivers to consider the consequences of tooling around, so there are environmental benefits.


i second donut man: zzz.

totally boring


Don't worry - I predict there will be plenty of funny monkey pictures and celebrity news above this post for all you attention-deficient slackjaws soon enough.

looks like we got her craw, huh boyz?

The fact that many posters on this thread are apparently happy to surrender to the latest iteration of Orwell is far from boring. Terrifying is more like it...

yes, let's let fear rule our lives. big brother is watching. we're all being held down by the man! this is really scary. holy crap! this sucks. this is fascist! we must stop this. another right taken away! don't give em an inch!

wait, on the other hand, you're right. this is absolutely boring shit. nevermind.

"An interesting debate is going on in Oregon..."

Talk about an overstatement. Interesting? COME ON. Remind me to watch paint dry.

Where are your papers? I vant to see your papers!!!


I think this is an interesting concept, but I'm worried about the privacy implications. Privacy issues such as this need to be addressed in the law before we let such technology out into the field. In Boston, there's a technology that meter police use to photograph every person's license plate. The image is sent to a database that cross checks the person's data and the last time that that car was in that position. It saves the police the time it takes to get out of the car and check the meter which means that police are more efficient and faster at their jobs. But, what happens to the data? It gets saved by the third party who supplies the software. They correlate that data with other consumer marketing data to help develop a profile of the individual that they can sell. Is this the kind of world you want to live in? Really?

The Oregon case is interesting because, despite their promise to purge data, it isn't going to happen. They will need to maintain the data in case there is a dispute over the billing. And what happens if the state, in order to raise more revenue, decides to sell the data? Do you want that to happen? What if your insurance company wants to raise your rates because you're hanging out in high risk neighborhoods?

How about the selling of your tax returns when prepared by a third party? The Bush administration plans on making that legal, too. Shall you let that happen?

My point is that we need to attempt to nip this in the bud with some clear opt ins and guidelines for managing your digital profile. It's about security - your personal security and it's important, even if trolls think it's boring.

Where are your .... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

hmmm. interesting.



where are the monkeys?

p.s. Don't get me wrong. I love celebrity news. I just don't think it takes that much effort to SCROLL PAST THINGS YOU DON'T WANT TO READ, people.

i'd rather be watching tv static.

there goes my last brain cell

gee, this post is more fun than an open casket funeral.


I like monkeys

shove a pencil in my eye already...

Social Security numbers were originally promised to be for one purpose only. And maybe those who made that promise kept it.

Those who followed were not bound by those promises. Those who make the promises now may well keep them. Those who follow will not be bound by them.

Whoa! Looks like the Ritalin truck didn't make all its stops today. Hang in there, sleepyheads! Try some frosted cereal or somepin.

Pay-at-the-pump appears to be a better notion all around: far less invasive, more directly related to environmental impact -- and and it rules out the uninsured driver issue (unless the car is solar-powered, perhaps).

The notion that cars getting better gas mileage makes PATP less attractive makes me giggle. We can discuss that just as soon as I no longer see ads for hybrid SUVs.

And those who read this thread will immediately die of boredom.


This post sucks.

Cranky. Pants.

All of you.

I think it's very a very interesting issue (but I've never tried tv static), especially when you start getting into privacy issues that erica laid out. Kinks need to be ironed, but it's a (green) step in the right direction.


U Remain Dumb

Love and kisses,


The Man is Upon us.

Is it over yet?

You mean, "Are we there yet?"

Whoa, guess talking about what a waste of time this is is great fun. I guess it's hip to be down on the Stranger.

What bothers me about this is that as a general rule, very few areas in this country are actually set up to give you alternatives to driving around. There's a lot of places you can live in that really penalize you for NOT driving: no efficient mass transit, little in the way of convenient bussing, incomplete bike lanes, etc. And the nastier traffic is, besides, the more dangerous it is to be on the road in a bike, period. All it takes is one impatient jackass.

I don't live in Seattle or Oregon, so I can't say how it is there, but I would imagine that alternate transportation needs to be pushed before drivers are penalized: particularly in times when many people need to drive.

i don't see why taxing gas doesn't work. that way, it encourages people to drive less, and to have cars that use less gas. if we do it on miles that you drive, then there would be no benefit to driving a civic or a prius instead of driving a H2.

am i mis-reading this?

Come on people, stay focused:

This is boring shit! zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Here here. This is absolutely head-numbing stuff.


I don't live in Seattle or oregon, but nonetheless, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

(It's like that experiment where the lab animals can leave the cage to escape the shock but by that time they're so conditioned, they just sit there.)

The friendly, wonky folks over at Cascadia Scorecard have an informative post on the pluses and minuses of PAYD vs. PATP.

If you think this kind of thing is boring, their post may induce a coma, so visit at your own risk.

thanks, michael. that was pretty interesting. i would be okay with the per mile thing if they used the idea of charging more per mile based on fuel efficiency. it was also an interesting idea that larger cars (cough cough SUVS cough cough) cause more road wear and require farther stopping distances. as long as i'm not paying as much in my protege5 as some idiot driving a tahoe or something, i'm okay.

i'm considering making a bumpersticker that says "fight terrorism, sell you SUV" and slapping them on all the hummers in my apt complex. similar to the "I'm changing the environment, ask me how" stickers that adbusters had/have.

"Sell you SUV"??
Or is it "Sell you, SUV!"

whichever, I don't think it's a big seller, adam.

plus, it's boring. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

you, your, whatever.

isn't there some way to block idiots through their IP address or email address or something?

Adam: I like that as a band name: Block Idiots.

Anyway, it's kinda fun. They sound like flies buzzing around.

For the bumpersticker, how about: "Only An SUV THIS BIG Can Cart My Fat Ass Around"? And use very sticky glue.

yeah, i can't wait until i move to seattle, then i can be closer to the endearing folk such as Max E. Pad or Stinkeye Bill!

Those of us who don't drive cars couldn't give two shits. While I MIGHT feel for suburbanites who would have to face this, I don't really have much of a problem with tracking your mileage or using tracking info to see if you're violating probation or to check against your word that you didn't leave town to meet a mistress.

As for the government following you for surveillance... heh. I don't have an answer to that.

the issue i would have with that is a person's inability to opt out. i assume that anyone with a car would have to have this device thingy. if you live in a town where driving a car is absolutely necessary, like i do, it would be as good as having a tracking device on you at all times:

hmm, his car is at a gay bar.
hmm, her car parked in front of a sex shop.

etc, etc.

Well, in Seattle it'd actually be more like:

hmm, his car is parked 12 blocks from a gay bar
hmm, his car is parked 14 blocks from a sex shop
Or maybe he's just eating at the nearby Kidd Valley...

Mr. ZZZ man (or women), It's obvious that it is the same person posting using different names. Go read about monkeys and let us tranportation wonks geek out in peace. Here go play with this for awhile:

Why can't politicians just raise the overall gas tax? That way, people who are driving more fuel-efficient cars will pay more of their share. It will also have the extra benefit of penalizing drivers who still insist on driving gas-guzzlers. Oh right, an increased gas tax is politically unpopular, so let's just violate people's privacy.

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 45 days old).