Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tracking without losing your privacy

This thought stated as a way to collect tolls and track road usage while not giving up privacy. I use Fastrack here in California and it knows when I was on a toll road and even how fast I was going.

Now I personally don't care about that data much since I'm not doing anything that anyone else would care about.

What if you did care. What if our non-trustworthy government decided that instead of a gas tax, all cars will just be tracked for usage and charged accordingly.

This may happen sooner than later with alternative fuels and electric cars. They may not pay much of or any gas tax therefore not contributing to road maintenance and construction of new roads.

So how can the government or contacted agency get this data without invading your privacy.

We need a solution that allows an individual to provide enough data to the organization that needs that data without compromising privacy. I believe this can be done by doing the following:
- Track only how many miles were traveled in an area.
- Do not track times
- Only report the month or quarters totals.
- Data collection request occurs constant but device only reports when required.

Let me explain this all...
The agency or organization only needs enough information to generate a usage billing. The device knows where you are but that device does not report that detailed data, only totals for the different areas.

Let's say you are driving through the city of San Diego on surface streets. In one month you drive 342 miles on these surface streets. That's all the city needs to know to provide you with a tax bill. The idea is instead of gas tax paying for road repair, drivers pay for where they actually drive!

The device in your car that can replace a fastrak as well only stores totals. Even if it was compromised there would be no detailed tracking data.

As you drive around there are readers like what toll roads have now that collect the data from these devices. The devices will be polled but only answer when their reporting period is due. By not answering this prevents tracking to the collection locations. When it does answer and uploads it's report it is packaged anonymously and only the collection agency will see the contents. There should be no record of what collector received the report. Again ensuring privacy of the drivers.

When you drive under these collection points your tracker can also get updates. I would foresee updates happening all the time with information on new areas, changed areas, plus as you move to an area you have never been, a new map. The trackers would only store a map large enough to cover say a few hundred square miles. If you were to go on a trip to Las Vegas then as your tracker passed through collection points it would give you more areas. All of this data transaction would be anonymous so you would not be tracked.

Each area that it's basically just a border of GPS coordinates would have a number and that number would have a corresponding mileage increment with it as you move around in that area. Once your collection time comes up all that data is uploaded and once confirmed it is received your tracker gets a clear code. For prevention of a trackers data being cleared there would need to be safeguards. In the event a tracker is lost there would be a fine, this would be enough to cover the cost of the tracker itself plus an average amount of fees that would normally be collected in a period.

Why so paranoid?
Because too much data can be used for malicious purposes. Here are several examples of what detailed tracking data could be used for:
-Let's say your seeing a sociologist and you don't want anyone to know. If you were tracked then a pattern of always going to a particular area at a particular time would give away your secret.
-You could be having an affair. Not a nice thing to do but nonetheless it's none of the government business.
-What if you frequented a gun range and you were running for political office. Maybe that is not something you want people to know.
-Just in general it's no one's business where you are or where you go. This is a free country, we don't have to be treated like communist Russia where we have to have papers to move around the country. It's plain and simple too much information that no one should have.

So as we move forward with the inevitable of having to pay for use of roads and other shared resources. Having a solution that respects our privacy while still providing enough data to pay for these resources is a win win for everyone. The added benefit is a more fair way of collecting taxes. So grandma with an older car that gets poor gas mileage but only drives to the grocery store and back vs the hybrid owner that drives 30,000 miles a year all over the country will both be treated more fairly.

I would suggest that the mileage rates be based on the weight of the vehicle as they cause more wear on the roads thus more costs to maintain.

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