Privacy protection bill passes state senate

by Los Altos Town Crier, Los Altos Town Crier

State senators passed several bills authored by state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) earlier this month, including SB 1268. The bill would protect the privacy of drivers who use the FasTrak payment system for toll bridges and roads, and passed 24-10.

The legislation prohibits transportation agencies from selling or sharing personal data, requires them to purge data when no longer needed, sets penalties for violations and ensures that FasTrak subscribers are notified of privacy practices affecting them.

 ‘There’s just no reason for a government agency to track the movements of Californians, let alone maintain that information in a database forever and ever,’ Simitian said.

Simitian’s legislation ensures the privacy of the data that transportation agencies collect via FasTrak and other toll collection systems, which allow drivers to pay tolls electronically at bridges and on toll roads, creating a travel and billing record for each driver.

 Less well known is that they are read by traffic-monitoring systems throughout the Bay Area and elsewhere in the state to measure traffic congestion. Cameras that photograph license plates are used to ensure tollpayer compliance.

‘The net result is that relatively obscure transportation agencies have personal data and travel histories for well over a million Californians, with no real meaningful legal protection from misuse of or inappropriate access to the data,’ Simitian said.

Currently, privacy protections for the data are set forth in the policies of various transportation agencies.

‘The state’s interest is in collecting tolls. Period,’ said Richard Holober, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California. ‘That’s all the data should be used for. I’m pleased to see the legislation provide this protection.’

The bill has garnered significant opposition from transportation agencies around the state.

The bill now moves to the Assembly.