On June 1st 2012, Go Transit in the Greater Toronto Area started to phase out anonymous 2 ride and 10 ride paper based tickets. These 2 ride and 10 ride tickets would get stamped in a machine and it didn’t require giving Metrolinx your name and address or other personal information. You can still buy anonymous single ride and day passes but if you ride the bus every day this is a huge inconvenience and the price is higher. If you ride the bus every day you’re likely to opt-in to the PRESTOCARD system. The PRESTOCARD system is dangerous to your personal privacy because it collects personal information that was never previously required to ride the bus. Personal information collected by the Government of Ontario is stored on computers running Microsoft Windows Server and is a blatant security risk.
Personal information that may be collected by PRESTO in connection with your use of the PRESTOCARD is recorded information that identifies individuals and may include:
a) information relating to financial transactions in which you have been involved or will be involved with PRESTO, including your credit card number and your bank account information;
b) any identifying number, symbol or other particular identifier assigned to you by PRESTO;
c) your address or telephone number;
d) correspondence sent to PRESTO by you that is implicitly or explicitly of a private or confidential nature, and replies to that correspondence that would reveal the contents of the original correspondence; and/or
e) your name where it appears with other personal information relating to you or where the disclosure of your name would reveal other personal information about you.
The claim from Metrolinx (whom owns Go Transit and Metrolinx) is that the information will only be used for a list of purposes although it says ‘among other things’ meaning the list is not complete:
PRESTO’s primary purpose for collecting your personal information is to provide the services and/or products requested by you. In addition, you agree that your personal information may be used, among other things, to:
a) open and set-up your PRESTO Account;
b) verify your identity and/or your eligibility for certain PRESTO Services;
c) mail to you your PRESTOCARD and other such items or communications;
d) operate the PRESTO Services effectively;
e) administer loyalty programs associated with the use of the PRESTO Services;
f) protect you and PRESTO from error and fraud
g) better understand your needs and eligibility for products and services offered by PRESTO or the Service Providers;
h) communicate to you those products and services that may be of interest to you;
i) improve the products and/or services offered to you; and
j) comply with legal and regulatory requirements.
What they do not list is the fact that the GO Transit system uses “tap on” and “tap off”. What this means is that you get on the bus, you tap your card and it makes a record that you boarded the bus. When you leave the bus you are required to “tap off” which makes a record that your trip ended. From a billing standpoint this means they keep track of your trip. They know where you get on the bus, and where you get off. This means the government (who owns Metrolinx) has your name & address, and can attach your trip information to their records and more readily build a personality profile on you.
The PRESTOCARD itself is RFID based and is read by an RFID reader on every bus. At some point the reader talks to head office, I suspect using WiFi communications. If anyone knows more about Presto and Wifi please leave a comment. I’ve discovered the Wifi prestocard client while on the bus using tools from the Aircrack-ng suite of utilities. My only guess is that this is how they update the billing records on the road.
Since Metrolinx is owned by the Government of Ontario, there will be no third party disclosure issues when handing the information over to the police, or other government agencies. When CCTV exists on Go Transit buses, facial recognition technology will get help via a list of names of people riding the bus since the trip is tracked for billing purposes. If you use your PRESTOCARD on Mississauga or Brampton Transit, it will already “out you” to CCTV. Not to mention the fact that the government will have information on your entire trip from start to finish. This information is valuable to the government and there are many uses. One of the more pragmatic things I can think of would be to give the government statistics it can use to market its incumbent political party to demographics more likely to vote for them.
What ever happened to the right to travel anonymously? Metrolinx, Go Transit and PRESTOCARD are all services that will remove this right and people will simply adapt before complaining. Those of us who don’t want to be tracked will stand out, we’ll get evil looks from bus drivers when we don’t tap on, and disgruntled looks from people waiting in line while people like me pay cash.