2017-10-12 / News

State: Toll booth data protected

Statement follows concern about gantries by ACLU

After the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern last Thursday about privacy safeguards pertaining to toll gantries, the state has assured Rhode Islanders all data will be vigilantly protected.

“The privacy protection of every piece of data collected by our systems is job number one for us,” said Buddy Croft, executive director of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority.

Peter Alviti, director of the Department of Transportation, explained the “meticulous preparation” that has gone into ensuring all data collected from the electronic tolling system is subject to the “utmost protection.”

Foremost, he said, no data will be handled by his department, which is neither the repository nor the processor of any information. Even when additional gantries are installed under the RhodeWorks plan, the bridge authority will be responsible for the data.

“We have never had an issue with this,” said Croft, whose agency has used the system since open-road tolling was instituted on the Newport Pell Bridge in spring 2012. “We are scrupulous and vigilant. We anticipate applying the same strict and rigid standards of protection to the large commercial truck tolls that we use for our bridges.”

Between the two agencies, there is a memorandum of understanding to have the bridge authority process all data from the electronic tolling gantries. Since the data goes directly to its Jamestown headquarters, it falls under that agency’s privacy protection policy, which also governs data from the bridge.

The Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU issued a press released last Thursday about an upcoming public hearing on proposed regulations addressing the imminent installation of toll gantries for the state’s truck tolling. The proposal, however, contained no provisions addressing critical privacy issues, the release said.

“It is imperative that these regulations include explicit privacy safeguards,” said Marcela Betancur, a policy associate with the ACLU. “This is a statewide network of toll gantries that has the potential to track and store vast amounts of information on all motorists. The absence of any regulatory safeguards is a significant omission.”

The toll system will use technology to detect and capture information from every motor vehicle going under the gantries, according to the ACLU, even though only certain vehicles will be assessed toll fees.

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