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kb0zke

Toll road privacy

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As we research the question of EZ Tag, NTTA, EZ Pass, et al, I noticed a little something on one of the sites. I believe that Houston (but it might be somewhere else) has tag readers all over the place, not just on the toll roads, for the purpose of figuring out how congested traffic is. While that is a reasonable goal, what's to stop someone in a back office somewhere deciding that they would like to know where that white Jeep Liberty goes each day when it leaves the toll road? Wouldn't be hard to do. I understand that some transponders are removable, so that you can have just one and move it from vehicle to vehicle just by going on the website and changing the license plate associated with that account, while others are permanently mounted ones.

A related question: Texas often has outer roads that run parallel to the toll road and are free. We often take advantage of the slower pace of those outer roads when going a short distance, even when the gps wants me to get on the big highway so that I can get off at the next exit. If I'm on the outer road of a toll road, am I going to be charged as if I was on the toll road, or are the readers well focused to pick up only vehicles on the toll road?

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3 hours ago, kb0zke said:

If I'm on the outer road of a toll road, am I going to be charged as if I was on the toll road, or are the readers well focused to pick up only vehicles on the toll road?

I don't now how it is in Texas but in Minneapolis we have a "Sane Lane" which only charges tolls at certain times of the day. The rest of the day it and its adjoining lanes are free. So transponders here only pick up the one lane of a multilane freeway.

As I think about it, what about those toll roads that have EZ Pass lanes and cash lanes? They, obviously, only pick up the lane the vehicle is actually in.

Linda Sand

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We do our best to never drive on any interstate, let alone on toll roads.  We have found that traveling the "Blue Highways" the most enjoyable.  That way you get to see most of "real America" and avoid a lot of congestion on the interstates.  No paying for roads I've already helped pay for with taxes.  Yes, it does take a bit longer to get somewhere but its a lot more interesting.  Special thanks to William Least Heat-Moon.

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With E-Z Pass, at least here in NY, it also pays for toll BRIDGES.  So it can still be useful to people who don't drive the interstates.

As far as them tracking you, I saw a Law and Order once where they convicted the guilty guy cause they checked his E-Z Pass records and used that to prove he wasn't where he claimed to be when the murder happened.

Note to self:  Remove the E-Z Pass transponder from my car before driving off to kill someone who annoyed me.

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10 hours ago, kb0zke said:

While that is a reasonable goal, what's to stop someone in a back office somewhere deciding that they would like to know where that white Jeep Liberty goes each day when it leaves the toll road? Wouldn't be hard to do. I understand that some transponders are removable, so that you can have just one and move it from vehicle to vehicle just by going on the website and changing the license plate associated with that account, while others are permanently mounted ones.

1

I think that you are being paranoid. I suppose it may be possible to do what you envision but with the readers focused enough to pick what lane you are in, they would also have to put one on every lane of every road and alley to do that. And since your "smartphone" keeps track of you personally, why bother following your car, which may be driven by some other person?

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The Houston traffic monitoring system is named TranStar and is designed with individual privacy in mind.  Unlike a toll system, they don't need to know who you are for billing purposes.  They just want to track the number of cars and their speed.   Houston's  system accepts two forms of input to track vehicles.  Personal Bluetooth devices (e.g. cell phone, GPS ...) and the EZ-TAG RFID transponders (the device you attach to your windshield).  The top-left side of the following  web page has links to click on, that explain how each of the two device types are used.

https://www.houstontranstar.org/faq/traffictech.aspx

---------------

For toll booths, Houston relies principally on their  EZ-TAG RFID transponder:

It works much like EZ-Pass does.  I don't know if the underlying electronics is identical or not.  But their method of operation is the same.  This link to EZ-Pass says they focus on a 10' x 10' patch.  The outer roads next to elevated highways in Texas, that I've seen, are way too far away to be detected.  Here's a good description of how EZ-Pass and other RFID transponder systems work:

https://auto.howstuffworks.com/e-zpass1.htm

E-ZPass and EZ-TAG  devices are removable.  You can wrap them in foil or put them in a silvered mylar bag (like the one computer disk drives and circuit boards get shipped in) to block transmission.

Edited by DanZemke
added additional info

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3 hours ago, Kirk W said:

I think that you are being paranoid. I suppose it may be possible to do what you envision but with the readers focused enough to pick what lane you are in, they would also have to put one on every lane of every road and alley to do that. And since your "smartphone" keeps track of you personally, why bother following your car, which may be driven by some other person?

Just because he may be paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get him.

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We use EZWe use EZ pass. We use sunpass. We travel tpks and interstates when it suites us.We also travel the  "blue" roads.

 

"They" always know what you are doing."They" always see you."they" know were you are. "They " are everywhere. We have been doing this for years and  and have never been charged for any other  toll than what we used. Pay attention to "Them" as they work closely  with  'They". Were you see "they" You will see "them"

We Are having a good and have no time to worry about what "They"or "them" might be doing or know about us.In fact sometimes we forget were we have been or when we have been there perhaps "they" can tell us.

Anyhow we have never had a problem with EZ pass or sunpass or toll roads.

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The only time we've been charged an incorrect toll was when I sent an E-ZPass transponder back in one of their shielded bags and it still was read in the mail truck. It only took a few minutes on the phone with an E-ZPass CSR to get it straightened out and a credit issued. The next time I sent one back I foil wrapped it and then put it in their bag.

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Florida now recognizes the EZ pass. We have been advised that both the EZ pass and the sun pass MAY be recognized at a toll booth and it is recommended that both are not displayed and one of them should be shielded  and stored.We have both so we keep the sunpass displayed during our winter stay and move the EZ into the RV.

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Rest easily that if you have a TX/Harris Co toll tag, it is NOT read while traveling on the frontage roads.  Been that route many times, both toll and frontage roads. They only catch the tags on the toll sections.  And there are numerous devices that are keeping track of where you are/go/have been. Ever wonder why Google maps shows ads around where you are?  How about the popups on your smartphone about what you just googled?

Been traveling along I-10 from San Antonio to Tucson--been photoed/stopped/checked several times. Get used to it, 'they' are everywhere, going to be like the UK soon...

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what's to stop someone in a back office somewhere deciding that they would like to know where that white Jeep Liberty goes each day when it leaves the toll road? 

 

Data obfuscation methods, database and network security, and all the access protocols that go into a major system like that.  It wouldn't be easy for some random guy to correlate the obfuscated speed and travel data to a specific actual person/vehicle.

SOURCE:  Have worked for state and local DOTs doing traffic management systems.

 

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On 12/19/2018 at 9:33 PM, jblo said:

And there are numerous devices that are keeping track of where you are/go/have been. Ever wonder why Google maps shows ads around where you are?  How about the popups on your smartphone about what you just googled?

Why all this worrying about toll transponders "knowing" where you have been?  Google keeps track of all phones that run Google Maps and have their GPS function on.  That's where all the Google Navigation traffic data comes from. As a result I can look at my Location History and see where I've been for almost every moment since I bought my first smart phone ~6 years ago.  On one level it's a bit creepy, but OTOH it's a great way to keep a diary that can reliably answer the question "when did we visit that place?".

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My only experience with an EZ Pass was when I get t a bill in the mail for a toll on a White VW driving on a road in Maryland. I have never been to Maryland and I drive a black Jeep Wrangler. One call to the toll free number and I was given credit. Not sure why they sent to the bill to my So Dakota registered black Jeep. 

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A computer misread your plate and automatically sent a notice.  When you called, someone looked at the photo, so the discrepancy, and cancelled it.  Pretty common.

 

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