Wednesday, April 7, 2010

GPS and Road Privacy

The Las Vegas Sun has reported that the GPS tracking of drivers is being considered as a technology to support expected shortfalls in fuel taxes. The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT)  revealed at a meeting this week a study which estimates that reduced fuel taxation revenues due to the use of hybrid and gas-free cars could be as high as $6 billion by 2016.
Nevada is considering several schemes to support a payment model based on "vehicle miles travelled", including voluntary reporting (the honour system) all the way up to on-board GPS-based devices for wireless tracking of miles driven. While this may seem a wonderful opportunity for technologists to rollout a sophisticated system, privacy concerns were raised immediately.
Scott Rawlins, NDOT deputy director, said privacy is a central issue in the debate. "Some say we don't want Big Brother following us around," Rawlins said. "How do we protect the privacy of those vehicle owners and not have that sense out there?” No simple (or complex) answers to the privacy issue as yet.
In June last year I made a long post on the risk of degradation to the GPS service, based on an assessment of the GPS program by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the audit and investigative arm of the US Congress. The GPS privacy debate may yet be moot.
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