I find it hard to believe that the Institution of Professional Engineers in New Zealand is actually silly enough to promote the use of GPS technology to track vehicles and use that to institute user-pays billing on our roads. I have no problem with finding ways to deal with traffic congestion, and getting more people out of cars and into other forms of transport where possible and appropriate. But my problem is this.
The institution has released a report saying change is needed to the system where motorists pay for road use with a flat-rate excise tax. The report advocates the use of GPS systems to gather information on vehicle movements and charge accordingly. (from above linkie)
The privacy issues with GPS are a mile wide. To be able to implement congestion charging, which is often based on managing peak traffic at certain times, it is necessary to know exactly where a car is, and at what time – the basic information stored in a GPS tracklog. To be able to bill the driver, would this then mean that a GPS unit in a car is going to have to collect and send this information to some billing server that is able to process it, and analyse location and time, from which it will then produce the bill. Of course, this data would then likely have to be kept in case of any billing disputes – which means what is potentially very private and sensitive data is not going to disappear any time soon.
Of course, it may spur a whole lot of interest in DYI GPS jammers. In the meantime, you may want to check out a previous article I wrote on protecting your privacy with GPS tracklogs. GPS units produce private data, and the proposal from IPENZ is nothing more than a lame technical solution that shows a complete disregard for privacy.
Note – this has been written based only on news reports and not reading the IPENZ report in depth. Either it hasn’t been posted on their website yet, or it has only been made available to IPENZ members. I have emailed their media contact, but haven’t heard back yet.