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By GCN Staff

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New York redirects E-ZPass data for traffic analysis

The New York City’s Department of Transportation is reusing data generated by the state’s popular RFID-enabled E-ZPass toll-paying system to feed other traffic management and analytics applications across New York City, although critics say the agency has not made the extent of its traffic data-sharing well known to the public.

According to a report in Forbes magazine, the E-ZPass data is being fed to Midtown in Motion, a traffic management program announced by the mayor’s office in 2011 that uses 100 microwave sensors, 32 video cameras and E-ZPass readers at 23 intersections to gauge world-class traffic congestion in the heart of the city.

E-ZPass and data from the other sources is gathered using the New York City Wireless Network and processed by the city’s Traffic Management Center in Long Island City, where it is used to highlight traffic choke points, adjust traffic light timing and ultimately help the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to 2011 announcement by the mayor’s office.

The total cost for installation of the system was $1.6 million, with $1 million in city funding and $600,000 in funding from the Federal Highway Administration. The DOT says the system resulted in a 10 percent improvement in travel speeds and reduced pollution in its first year.

Extending the use of E-ZPass data and the terms and conditions under which it is reused and stored has not been broadly circulated, Forbes reported. At the same time, the data is not in motion for very long.

TransCore, a company that makes the RFID readers, told Forbes that the tag ID data is encrypted and only held in memory for several minutes. The system “cannot identify the tag reader and does not keep any record of the tag sightings,” said a company spokesperson.

That does not satisfy some, including a Defcon conference attendee who aired his concerns about the future of open-ended personal data sharing policies and practices. “If NYDOT can put up readers,” he told Forbes, “other agencies could as well.”

Posted by GCN Staff on Sep 17, 2013 at 12:25 PM


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