Will NDOT’s New Proposal Invade Your Privacy?

The Government Could Track Your Every Move.
The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) is studying ways to replace the fuel tax with a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) program in order to charge drivers for the number of miles they travel rather than the fuel they consume. NDOT will be holding public information meetings to present their proposals and get feedback from the public (see below for more information).

Although the ACLU of Nevada takes no position regarding tax policies, we oppose any resulting information collecting method that would threaten individual privacy rights, particularly if it allows the government to create an infrastructure for routine surveillance.

What is being proposed?
While the method of tracking miles traveled under VMT has not yet been established, NDOT has already partnered with the University of Nevada, Reno to conduct a preliminary VMT study using GPS (global positioning software) to track miles traveled.

Although proponents of this method say that the devices could be programmed not to record where people travel, location-sensing is what GPS does - GPS sensors must know where you are in order to measure how far you’re moving. Additionally, the devices will need to know when you are out-of-state so they stop charging you. While initially the GPS devices may be artificially programmed to not record real-time location data, it would be fairly simple to turn these devices into full-fledged tracking devices.

Additional proposals include “on-board vehicle cards” that would store mileage and could be read by any card reading device, odometer reading as reported during annual registration, and possible self-reporting methods. Similar VMT systems have been proposed around the country, but all projects are only in pilot stage.

Some will argue that, because we are in public, we have no right or need for privacy in where we drive.
This argument is groundless and ignores Constitutional principles. Being in public is not an on/off proposition. There is a significant difference between being in view for those whose paths we happen to cross in public, and having one’s every public movement tracked and recorded.

So what are the civil liberties implications?
We have serious questions about any VMT proposal that would set up what amounts to a perfect infrastructure for tracking citizens everywhere they go in their vehicles. So far, open questions remain for these proposals, including how mileage would be tracked and how false readings would be dealt with, who would have access to the information gathered, how tampering would be prevented, and what privacy standards might be implemented. VMT sets an important precedent for other technologies where the question might arise over who controls them (the consumer versus the state). Most importantly, as with any data collected by a government agency, the information should not be accessible to third parties, including the police, without the driver's consent or a warrant issued after the driver has been accorded due process.

There is no need to build an enormous, unwieldy technological infrastructure that will inevitably be expanded to keep records of individuals’ everyday comings and goings.

Attend a Public Meeting to Find Out More Information!

Hearing in Reno
DATE: Tuesday, March 30, 2010
TIME: 4-7pm
LOCATION: Room A-3 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, 4590 S. Virginia Street
 

Hearing in Las Vegas
DATE: Thursday, April 29, 2010
TIME: 4-7pm
LOCATION: Clark County Government Building, Pyramid Building, 500 S. Grand Central Pkwy.
 

Comments for the public record may be submitted at either meeting or to vmtfeestudy@vmtfeenv.com. For more information, please visit www.vmtfeenv.com.

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