RI DOT Plans To Adopt Toll Gantry Regulations Without Any Privacy Protections

Posted: Oct, 05, 2017

The RI Department of Transportation (DOT) is holding a public hearing tomorrow afternoon on proposed regulations addressing the imminent installation of toll gantries for the state’s new truck toll program – but the proposal contains no provisions addressing critical privacy issues raised by the system.

Earlier in 2017, partly in response to civil liberties concerns raised by both legislators and advocates, the DOT offered assurances that it would adopt a policy addressing privacy protections. However, the regulations being considered at tomorrow’s hearing contain no mention of privacy at all.

“It is imperative that these regulations include explicit privacy safeguards,” said Marcela Betancur, ACLU of RI policy associate. “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,” Betancur continued.

The toll system will use various technologies to detect and capture information from every motor vehicle going under the gantries, even though only certain vehicles will be assessed toll fees. This will include capturing all license plates on the highway, including front and overview images of vehicles. It will presumably include recording the date, time and GPS location of every vehicle on the road. While there is no reason for the data relating to non-commercial vehicles to be retained at all, it appears that, under the RFP, such information will be stored for certain periods of time, whether for auditing or other purposes.

During the Request for Proposal process, the DOT stated that there would be “a specific policy in place regarding the storage, use, and deleting of data and images captured by the tolls prior to toll commencement.” The currently proposed rules regulate toll evasion and pricing, but fail to make good on the DOT’s pledge to protect privacy. Betancur noted that the DOT could not rely on informal policies to address the privacy issues, as they would fail to provide the clarity, accountability and lawful authority of state regulations.

The hearing is scheduled for 2 PM tomorrow in conference room 2B of the state Department of Administration Building, 1 Capitol Hill, Providence, RI 02908.

A copy of the regulations can be found here.

A copy of the ACLU’s testimony can be found here.