General Question

LuckyGuy's avatar

Are you aware your E-Z Pass, i-Pass, i-Zoom, etc. transponders are being scanned in more places than just toll booths?

Asked by LuckyGuy (30096 points ) January 28th, 2014

Someone set up a device that listens to his transponder as he travel around and goes about his business. Whenever the transponder outputs its data, his box makes a beep tone. He was shocked to see how many times it went off during the day. There are readers hidden behind signs and even commercial places. Presumably this data is being collected by some agency or agencies somewhere.
He has decided to put the transponder in the shielded bag and keep it in his glove compartment until he is driving on the Thruway and wants to enjoy the convenience and small reduction of toll rates.

I saw that McD tried tying into the system so customers could have their bills added directly to the EZ pass accounts. Unfortunately there were thefts of transponders by miscreants who broke into cars so they can get their Double Big Macs with cheese for free. Meanwhile the data is being collected. What do you think they are doing with it?
Will you wrap your transponder with aluminum foil and put it away until you need it?

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25 Answers

pleiades's avatar

Hell yes! when i get one

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Isn’t it amazing on as how techknowledgey advances we lose a little privacy ,and a bit of freedom and people just don’t seem to care as long as they have the convenience and the newest gadget.

Cupcake's avatar

I’ve done without so far. I think I’ll keep it that way.

jca's avatar

I don’t have one but there was an interesting article in the NY Times a few years ago, how, if you commit a crime, the law enforcement agencies could use it to find you AND if they want to catch speeders, they COULD use it to determine how fast you were traveling between toll booths.

tedibear's avatar

I was not aware of this, and I do have an E-Z Pass. I don’t think I have the bag any more, but would give thought to doing what your friend is doing. I’d like to know more about where the data is going.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Back in the stone age when EZ Pass was first starting out, they assured users the transponders would only be used for Thruway tolls and never to prosecute for other purposes like speeding. I got one because it was convenient, offered a reduced rate, and I could get an annual statement which was handy for income tax.
Now that I know readers are being located in places that have nothing to do with the Thruway I am pulling mine off the windshield, wrapping it in foil, and putting it in the glove box until I decide to use it.

jca's avatar

@LuckyGuy: Will foil really be effective since the EZ Pass is made to go “through” the glass and metal that a car is made of?

hearkat's avatar

I’ve been meaning to put mine in a shielded bag, but I keep forgetting – it is in my glove box, though. Sometimes I forget to pull it out for the toll roads, in which case, they read my license plate – which is associated with my EZ-Pass account, and add it to the bill that way – so it seems that it wasn’t able to read it from inside the glove box.

The license plate is always exposed and easily readable – there’s a mall nearby that has installed them in their entrances, from a ‘NJ Homeland Security’ grant. This article/video clip (mute your computer because there’s the annoying obligatory video ad first) says the information is being used by police, but I recall mentions that they were going to also use it for targeted advertising – still searching for reference to that. This article says that someone was issued a ticket for an expired registration while they shopped – how is that ‘Homeland Security’?

My point is that you don’t need to have an EZ-Pass or similar transponder in order to be tracked.

gailcalled's avatar

Luckily I use none of them and have not yet noticed a dramatic decrease in my quality of life.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@jca The foil will work. It conducts electrical signals around the device. Do a couple of wraps to make sure.

@hearkat Targetted advertising. Arrrrgh! What an abuse!
The first day I see that I’m going to lodge a complaint and tie up their customer service rep. for as long as possible. The second time, they will get it mailed back with a microscopic pin hole through the battery and circuit board.

LostInParadise's avatar

I was not aware. I resisted using EZ Pass for the longest time, but they are charging more for not using it.

I wonder how much of our electronic data is available for others to look at. How about credit card transactions, GPS readings and phone calls (other than by NSA)? I read a suggestion that we should be paid for the use of our information. Makes sense to me. When robots take over all of our jobs and we become full-time consumers, we will be able to live off the information we sell regarding our spending habits.

I was just reading about Alex Pentland’s view that we are entering a new age I recommend skimming the article rather than watching the video. I am not convinced, but there are some interesting ideas of how mass information may be used in helpful ways.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@hearkat The ticket for expired registration was probably just a “drive-by” camera on a computer, NJ uses them for stolen cars and expired registrations.

GoldieAV16's avatar

It doesn’t worry me. Traffic is being tracked and studied all the time. I just don’t see how knowing where my car is moving can be useful for anything other than a traffic study. If I were the paranoid sort – and I’m not – I’d be far more concerned about being tracked via my cell phone.

poofandmook's avatar

See, I don’t really care, so long as I’m not being bothered. I have nothing to hide… I’m not driving into Camden to buy drugs or anything, lol… I don’t really care who knows where I’m driving.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Old news. The WSJ or the NYT wrote about it several months ago..

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@elbanditoroso It was in Forbes in the fall.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Gosh… and I believed New York State when they talked about privacy 10 years ago when it started.
It bothers me that a good electrical engineer can slap a transponder reader on the back of a sign in front of a Dunkin Donuts with free wifi and let it record and transmit .

On a twist of Rule 37, If it can be read, there will be an Eastern European guy selling the info via a Tor site and Bitcoin.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I was told by a software engineer that virtually every motor vehicle manufactured in the last 5 years can be readily located then tracked with ease by “authorized” government agencies.

hearkat's avatar

@Tropical_Willie – If the info. from the overhead readers at the entrance is being transmitted to the local Police Station, do you think they’ll actually waste the resources to also have an officer patrolling the lot and scanning the cars?

@stanleybmanly – I wouldn’t be surprised… there’s so much technology in cars these days, between Navigation Systems and On-Star type services. Volkswagen and Google are working together to develop a system now. I loved my VWs, but that is a major turn-off for me. This is what they’ve developed so far – a smartphone app: http://smiledrive.vw.com/, but I’ve heard they’re developing an integrated system.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@hearkat—> The NJ police ( and other PDs ) have a cameras on with a computer looking for stolen cars and expired tags in the general public areas not just in parking lots of malls. They don’t need the transponders to find the cars with expired tags, they have a “license plate reader” (your article). They read the “plates” not transponders and find expired and stolen vehicles.

dabbler's avatar

@LuckyGuy “I believed New York State when they talked about privacy 10 years ago when it started” I wanted to believe that, too. But we still keep the thing in the shielded bag it came in when we’re not using it.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@dabbler Mine is already wrapped. I’ll take it out the next time I get on the Thruway.

hearkat's avatar

@Tropical_Willie – I think we’re missing each others’ points or something. I was using the mall as an example that the police don’t need a toll-payment transponder to track us (as noted in the last line of my original comment). Then you said that the expired registration ticket was probably from a drive-by plate reader in a patrol car; which I countered by stating that it would be wasteful of their resources to have an officer driving around scanning plates that have already been scanned by the overhead plate readers at the mall entrance. I honestly have no idea what point your trying to make in your most recent comment addressed to me, because those points have already been made. Maybe I’m missing something…

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@hearkat
They have to find the physical car to put a ticket on the car, the plate reader at the entrance only tells them that a car has passed through the reader ( thousands of vehicles in some parking lots ).
The number of people driving around on expired or have a stolen car would surprise you. Mall parking lots are a dense and promising areas for tickets, a personal garage with the door closed is not promising.

hearkat's avatar

@Tropical_Willie – Good point. That used to be my regular mall, and it has expanded enormously over the last 20 years – finding a car in the lot is a proverbial needle in the haystack. Thanks for clarifying.

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