TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: A Pass on Privacy?

A Pass on Privacy?

Monty Solomon (
Sun, 17 Jul 2005 04:33:17 -0400


Anyone making long drives this summer will notice a new dimension to
contemporary inequality: a widening gap between the users of automatic
toll-paying devices and those who pay cash. The E-ZPass system, as it
is called on the East Coast, seemed like idle gadgetry when it was
introduced a decade ago. Drivers who acquired the passes had to nose
their way across traffic to reach specially equipped tollbooths -- and
slow to a crawl while the machinery worked its magic. But now the
sensors are sophisticated enough for you to whiz past them. As more
lanes are dedicated to E-ZPass, lines lengthen for the saps paying

E-ZPass is one of many innovations that give you the option of trading
a bit of privacy for a load of convenience. You can get deep discounts
by ordering your books from or joining a supermarket
'club.' In return, you surrender information about your purchasing
habits. Some people see a bait-and-switch here. Over time, the data
you are required to hand over become more and more personal, and such
handovers cease to be optional. Neato data gathering is making society
less free and less human. The people who issue such warnings --
whether you call them paranoids or libertarians -- are among those you
see stuck in the rippling heat, 73 cars away from the ''Cash Only''
sign at the Tappan Zee Bridge.

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