Presto card tapping reader

Metrolinx shares smart card user data with police

Privacy advocates are questioning Metrolinx’s (ON) practice of sharing user travel information with police.

The Toronto Star reports that the provincial transit agency has granted 12 of 26 police requests this year for travel records based on data collected by Presto smart cards.  Presto cards are used in the greater Toronto and Hamilton area and in Ottawa.

Metrolinx said it does not always require a court order or a warrant for  trip data and does not always notify customers that police have requested the information.  The agency began tracking police data requests in 2016.

Metrolinx spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins said that the agency only shares usage records — where a customer tapped a Presto card — and does not share personal information.  “Only the minimum amount of information requested is provided and all information is reviewed before being provided to police,” Aikins said.  She added that the agency complies with provincial privacy rules, which are known as FIPPA (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act).

But privacy experts say Metrolinx should be more open about how it uses rider information. “Collecting that information gives the company a responsibility to tell people exactly what they’re doing,” said Brenda McPhail, director of the privacy, technology and surveillance project at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Metrolinx is not the first transit operator or smart card provider to come under scrutiny for sharing cardholder data with law enforcement.  Others include Clipper in the San Francisco Bay Area,  Victoria’s Transport Ticketing Authority in Australia,  TransLink (BC), and TriMet (OR). Link to full story in Toronto Star

Photo credit: PRESTO Card/Flickr © All rights reserved

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