Rider anonymity is sacrificed in favor of smarter public transportation.

Rider anonymity is sacrificed in favor of smarter public transportation.

3 minutes, 56 seconds Read

Katie Malone

When the New York MTA first announced its switch to an OMNY tap-and-go system years ago, security experts were dubious. Then, in August, a 404-media investigation showed that riders had good reason to be worried. As it turned out, almost anyone could use trip history to track the whereabouts of particular riders. The feature was disabled by MTA, but it revealed a more significant issue that plagues all contemporary public transit systems: they make it more difficult to refuse the collection of our private information.

According to Brendan Saltaformaggio, an associate professor of cybersecurity at the Georgia Institute of Technology,” You’re creating a better system, but you also really are stepping into the dangerous cybersecurity minefield.”

Our ridership data can be linked to payment information, location data, and trip patterns. According to agencies, they make improvements and better understand how users use the services. On the other hand, transit agencies either share user data with law enforcement or sell it to advertisers, as many private companies do. For more information on requests they had made to local transit agencies for data over the previous ten years, we sent Freedom of Information Act requests to a number of major police departments across the nation, including those in New York City, Baltimore, and Chicago.

Even so, without a secure infrastructure in place to protect it, the data is becoming more and more vulnerable to breaches. The majority of ransomware gangs have financial motives. In order to prevent a data leak or system lockout, hackers are actually attempting to threaten public transit agencies into paying up, even though your data may be in danger. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority experienced this earlier this year, and the state bus system in Washington was disrupted in March by a ransomware attack. Despite this, the process still has the potential to compromise private information. After using San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit at the start of this year, hackers leaked personal information.

See also  The following morning: AI Safety Institute is announced by the US government.

According to Saltaformaggio,” These are organizations with tight budgets, who are typically well-funded by taxpayers and are probably not going to be overly excited to see all of this money being spent solely on cybersecurity in the hopes of avoiding an incident.”

Each organization’s specific measures for safeguarding your private information vary greatly. Both the American Public Transportation Association and the Federal Transit Administration offer recommendations for organizations on how to proceed. However, experts caution that organizations all over the nation struggle to secure the data they have access to because they are still open to attack.

It makes sense to digitize public transit payments. Paper money will always exist, despite the public’s preference to go cashless. Joshua Schank, managing principal at the transportation and financial advisory firm InfraStrategies, said that if an agency attempted to eliminate cash payments, they might face some serious retaliation because a sizable portion of people still use cash to ride transit. However, the use of RFID-powered cards, apps, and even digital wallets has become a common way to make payments. This is especially true given that these more recent methods frequently come with benefits like free transfers between stations or services. By collaborating with the transit agencies on non-cash payment options, some credit card companies even provide incentives like ride discounts.

In many places, it is still possible to ride public transit with exact cash, but doing so removes you from the benefits mentioned above. Although it’s frequently much less convenient, it is possible to buy a card with cash and still receive those benefits. I need to visit a third-party store in my neighborhood, purchase an account there for$ 1, and then withdraw money to reload it whenever it becomes empty in order to obtain my ConnectCard in Pittsburgh. The bus fare is$ 2.75, so that card only covers about one-third of the ride. A physical OMNY card, or one subway ride plus the majority of your subsequent trip, costs$ 5 in New York. ( It’s important to note that OMNY is currently offering a$ 1 deal at all of its vending machines. )

See also  A severely constrained plan for free users is reportedly being tested by Evernote.

Because they value their privacy or are among those without consistent access to banking, agencies heap on burdens for consumers, encouraging them to switch to data-collection apps and RFID smart cards while almost punishing those who try to stick with cash. To maintain some anonymity while traveling to work, it should n’t have to be more obtrusive, more expensive, or both.

You ca n’t really change much about it either. Experts claim that federal regulation is necessary to establish rules regarding how public transit agencies gather and use our data, just like the majority of data privacy issues. Up until that point, it’s just another way we’re forced to trade our personal information for petty convenience.

Similar Posts

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments