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Seattle installs new system to track individual drivers

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posted on Sep, 8 2015 @ 02:51 PM
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Traffic around here is terrible, and as the article points out there isn't really away for us to add more streets due to geographic limitations. It rains a fair amount here, and people apparently can't function in the rain. So it makes a lot of sense to have a smarter grid of traffic lights that can quickly adapt and help ease some of the congestion.


It’s another step in Seattle’s march to the future, a world where the street grid adapts to congestion, construction, accidents and football games in real-time. And as the city works to build a framework for vetting new technologies, struggling at times to keep pace with the speed of technology, it is also driving privacy advocate nuts.


That's all well and good, and though I'm not really one to scream privacy in public, this sort of thing does give me pause.


The Skywave antennas are part of a larger system installed by a company called Acyclica. The readers are placed along a street corridor, creating a Wi-Fi signal. As a car passes one of the readers, any wireless device – phone, tablet, Bluetooth, car sensor – leaves a mark. As that same device passes through the next intersection, it gets pinged again. As the car passes more readers, algorithms are run to calculate speed, distance, time and general behavior.


These apparently work better than the license plate readers, especially on smaller streets. They're about $2,000 a pop, which really isn't nearly as absurd as I thought it was going to be.


It’s hard to talk about data without raising the issue of privacy, however. The new system works because cellphones and tablets have their own identifying numbers called media access control or MAC addresses. As you drive down Mercer Street or 2nd Ave or 23rd, it can tell that it’s the same device pinging the string of antennas at the streetlights.


They're claiming that they don't get individual data, just a big lump. That may be true, but it still feels like something that could eventually be exploited, and I do wonder if the system itself is capable of zeroing in on someone specific if authorities are involved.


The issue for Robinson is that the city does not own the technology; a private contractor does. Rather than develop its own system, SDOT found it would be cheaper and more effective to pay a service fee to get it up and running. When SDOT first experimented with the Bluetooth readers, they hired Acyclica, based out of Boulder, Colorado. The city was satisfied with the product so gave Acyclica a contract to build out the Wi-Fi reader infrastructure. More recently, SDOT added four more vendors — Digimax, Quality Counts, Western Systems and IDAX — to its vendor pool, meaning any of them may be used to expand the already existing data network.


I'm certainly not going to fault SDOT for contracting this out, that makes sense. Now there are five companies that have to be held to certain standards.


The president of one of the other four vendors, who didn’t want to be named for fear of hurting his company’s chances at more work, says it stores data for up to five years. But, as at Acyclica, the data goes through a “one-way encryption” process and “only a very smart person working for a lifetime could decode the information. We have no desire to track individuals,” he says.


I'd like to know more about this encryption process. I have a hard time trusting companies to actually be secure, look at all the data breaches that happen.

Really the thing that bugs me the most is that SDOT can just implement something like this, with obvious privacy concerns without being vetted by the public first. They just do it, and then say since it's not for LE it doesn't matter. Well maybe the purpose wasn't for LE, but can LE access it and what sort of restraints are going to be placed on them?

It does feel a bit like a drop in the bucket, and that bucket is filling up fast. I worry that as we become more permissive of technology we become far less private, and even our desire for privacy is slowly eroded. I don't think I'm going to wake up one day and be forced to have a GPS tracker attacked to my ankle. I think I'm going to look back and realize my privacy was killed over many, many years slowly, with a thousand little cuts.

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posted on Sep, 8 2015 @ 03:23 PM
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Sounds like a great idea if it works. I could imagine a system that simply counts cars though. One of my worst pet peeves is sitting at a red light while nobody is going through the intersection. I would gladly trade any chance of getting a jet pack if they could fix this for me.

Thanks for the thread.

a reply to: Domo1



posted on Sep, 8 2015 @ 03:38 PM
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Traffic would go as fast as possible if the Media would say, "when traffic is slow don't pass anybody and stay back far enough for merges on and off of the road."

TPTB want traffic jams.

Any plan to ameliorate traffic jams is about some thing else.



posted on Sep, 8 2015 @ 03:44 PM
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a reply to: Semicollegiate




TPTB want traffic jams.


No one is that much of a monster.



posted on Sep, 8 2015 @ 03:52 PM
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originally posted by: Domo1
a reply to: Semicollegiate




TPTB want traffic jams.


No one is that much of a monster.


Ye shall know them by their fruits.



posted on Sep, 8 2015 @ 03:55 PM
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a reply to: Domo1

Seattle's traffic woes can be partially attributed to mayor Ed Murray and Transportation Director Scott Kubly. Both have displayed anti-car and commuter bias, and some of the planning and actions taken can be interpreted as nothing less. Both have denied the accusation, but parking problems and specifically the transformation of needed commuter lanes into bike-only lanes does nothing but create more snarl:

The Seattle Department of Transportation is proposing a plan to take a lane of traffic for a bike lane on Fifth Avenue. (AP) Comments Share 185 Tweet 6 Share Share Another day, another ideologically-driven, nonsensical bike lane plan being proposed by the Seattle Department of Transportation and I suspect they've been doing their hardest to make sure this one didn't get out for us to ridicule and perhaps stop. Mike Lindblom reports that SDOT wants to take away a lane from another highly congested stretch and turn it over to bikes, even though the demand is remarkably and embarrassingly low. Under a proposed SDOT plan, Fifth Avenue in Seattle — the street that shares the road with the monorail no one takes — would lose a car lane for a dedicated bike lane that no one will take except the employees at City Hall. Right now, you've got three lanes that are perpetually full during the morning and afternoon commutes (Fifth Avenue sees about 13,000 cars and trucks a day, on average). In fact, that whole area is incredibly congested with cars. It once took me an hour to get from Belltown to Eastlake in the middle of the afternoon. It normally takes about seven minutes. But because SDOT Director Scott Kubly is a bike activist, as is Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, they're using SDOT to push their anti-car ideology.



Further transportation issues are meet with asinine solutions or ignored, much to the consternation of those that rely on public roads to put food on the table.
www.king5.com...
kiroradio.com...

Anyone who lives and commutes in the greater Seattle area other than the small percentage that bike to work are left shaking their heads at the city's response to a growing problem.



posted on Sep, 8 2015 @ 03:57 PM
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Why not consult the public? That's a worry in itself, to say what's to hide then? While similar systems have been talked about in the area, looks like they have decided to just go 'forward' despite addressing it with the citizens.

Guessing then do they have enough data to rule out most every single driver on the road has a cell phone, or other device, on or in the car, not sure how smooth the system will be.

Open for hacking, etc., sure anything that's going to "inject" something onto, or in this case leave a mark, a system that has the capability. And will their be recorded data(personal info even maybe-such as local or out of town driver? What is their general behavior-as mentioned? Do they speed often?(Hmm, looks like we need an officer in on that))storage banks to compare and contrast for seasons to holidays.

Wonder what the UCLA will say about it as they had an issue with license plate tracking while traveling.

edit on 8-9-2015 by dreamingawake because: (no reason given)



posted on Sep, 8 2015 @ 04:00 PM
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I too feel this technology could, can and will be used by LEOs. This seems like a comparison to the Stingray technology used to dupe cellphones. If the system reads MAC addresses...some government agency will find a prescient legal means of pilfering the data set that accumulates over five years.

a reply to: Domo1



posted on Sep, 8 2015 @ 04:07 PM
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This falls into the, 'If you ain't done nothing wrong then you have nothing to fear' syndrome. Anybody needs to make up their own minds on this. It is spying no matter the nomenclature, and by default spying is not harmless.



posted on Sep, 8 2015 @ 04:10 PM
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a reply to: Domo1

As a second thought, since the system reads MAC addresses from passing cars via wireless/Bluetooth...wouldn't it also be able to generate a 3d mapping of MAC addresses in all the homes found within the readers range?



posted on Sep, 10 2015 @ 02:06 PM
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From the sound of it, this isn't just going to track cars. It's going to track everyone walking around with a cellphone or WiFi capable device.



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