Posts Tagged ‘privacy’

NDOT begins field test of car tracking technology for potential new tax

By Anne Knowles | 9:51 am July 22nd, 2011

RENO – The Nevada Department of Transportation says technology it is testing to track car mileage as part of a potential new tax system would not violate drivers’ privacy.

NDOT is in the second phase of a multi-year study of the Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax, which would replace the existing fuel tax and be levied based on the number of miles a car travels rather than the amount of gas it consumes.

During the first phase of the study, completed last year, NDOT looked at many aspects of the VMT tax, including various workable technologies and a number of policy issues. Based on public feedback, the agency concluded that privacy was the number one concern.

“What we heard out of phase one is how important privacy was, the tracking of vehicles, so in phase two we got rid of that element altogether,” said R. Scott Rawlins, deputy director of NDOT at a public information meeting held on July 21.

“No one wants Big Brother watching them,” added Alauddin Khan, NDOT’s chief performance analysis engineer working on the project.

NDOT, in cooperation with the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is now in the process of conducting a field test with 25 drivers in Las Vegas whose cars have been equipped with sensors connected to the automobile’s existing on-board diagnostics port. (All cars manufactured since 2003 have so-called OBD ports, which most automobile mechanics now use for computerized diagnostics.)

The Chevron gas station at the corner of Maryland and Tropicana in Las Vegas has been equipped with wireless technology that reads the cars’ odometers each time drivers in the test group come in to fill up their gas tanks.

Drivers can pump the gas and leave, without any human intervention, while the sensor sends their car’s odometer data to a computer inside the gas station. Drivers can also choose to collect a receipt inside the station to keep track of their mileage and tax.

The NODT study is not testing the collection of the fee, which could be handled in a number of ways, including at the point of purchase or on a monthly or even annual basis.

The technology costs about $20 per car in this trial phase, according to UNLV assistant professor Alexander Paz, who is part of the team developing the system. Paz said the technology would be less expensive in a wider roll out.

The third phase of the NDOT study, planned for next year, would test the technology in as many as 1,500 vehicles.

Citizens who attended the public meeting expressed their concerns with the program.

“A lot of my questions had to do with the security of the data and how they were going to record mileage that would end up being truly anonymous,” said Ron Nichols, a Reno resident who was one of a handful of area residents at the NDOT gathering. “So I saw a potential big issue with data privacy.”

Nichols said the technology being tested allayed some of his concerns, but he said he was still uncertain how the data would remain anonymous.

He and others who attended the meeting also saw another potential pitfall to the VMT.

Will drivers be taxed twice for miles driven in another state? If, for example, a Nevada driver travels into California, buys gas there and pays that state’s fuel tax, would the driver also pay VMT tax on those miles when they return to a gas pump in Nevada?

“If I fill up in Wendover and my odometer reads 10,000 miles, then I drive all over the country and come back and my odometer reads 20,000 miles, how will that work?” asked Nichols. “It would have to be implemented countrywide,and the chances of that are zero.”

“My main interest is if you do a lot of traveling, how is this going to add up?” said Steve Keller, a retired Reno resident who drives to his second home in Monterey, Calif., twice each month. “Where’s the fairness in that?”

Rawlins said concern over double-taxation could be mitigated by a reporting system much like the system used today by long-haul truckers. But he and others conceded that for a VMT tax to work, it would likely have to be implemented nationwide.

Because of that, Rawlins said a viable VMT system is at least ten to 15 years away from reality.

More than a dozen states are looking at the VMT, and NDOT is part of the Mileage Based User Fee Alliance, a group comprised of officials from the states that are considering the tax. The Obama administration, however, recently backtracked on support of the VMT, so its future is unknown.

The NDOT field test is costing $400,000 and is being paid for by federal dollars and in-kind donations from UNLV. It will conclude in October with a report expected in early 2012.


Audio clip:

NDOT’s Rawlins predicts a workable VMT tax is at least a decade away:

072111Rawlins2 :10 fifteen years out”


Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Discuss “Real ID” in Nevada

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 11:47 am April 18th, 2010

The Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Review Regulations will meet tomorrow afternoon to discuss the fate of the controversial “Real ID” in Nevada.

Citing concerns with both privacy and cost, numerous organizations have come out against the requirements of the REAL ID Act of 2005 including the ACLU, Americans for Tax Reform, Gun Owners of America, Gun Owners of Nevada, Campaign for Liberty, the Cato Institute, National Immigration Law Center and the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Though Congress has said the act is primarily intended to prevent identity fraud and has denied it would signal the dawn of national identity cards that could compromise the privacy of citizens, critics remain unconvinced.

“There is no security plan for protecting this information,” said a spokesperson from the Nevada chapter of the ACLU.  “Instead, the federal government presumes that the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators will operate the database. However, this private association has no accountability to Nevada, and it is not bound by either the Privacy Act, which applies to federal agencies, or the Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act, which applies to state DMVs.”

Under the Real ID Act, states will be required to scan documentary evidence into a shared database including proofs of birth dates, legal and residency status and social security numbers.

Real ID cards will feature a two-dimensional, non-encrypted bar code containing personal information such as the citizen’s home address. Because the cards will not be encrypted, there are concerns that businesses and other organizations could potentially scan and store a customer’s home address along with other pieces of personal information.

If Real ID is fully implemented, a Real ID-compliant identification card will be required not only to board commercial aircraft but also to enter federal buildings including courthouses.

“Without a REAL ID card, a person’s due process rights, the right to trial before a jury of one’s peers, and the right to petition government officials could be significantly and detrimentally impacted,” said the ACLU spokesperson.

Pro gun groups are concerned that Real ID scanning and databases could be mis-used as a quasi-national gun registry because driver’s licenses are required for the purchase of guns.

Another concern is the cost of the unfunded mandate.  Homeland Security estimates the total cost of implementing Real ID at $23.1 billion.  There will also be an administrative burden on state DMVs which will be required to verify the legal status of all license applicants.

Notable in its support for Real ID when most other conservative and libertarian groups have objected, the Heritage Foundation has published memos in support of state-issued Real IDs.  A 2008 memo explained:

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and the REAL ID Act of 2005 required that when key identification materials, such as driver’s licenses (and the documents used to obtain them, such as birth certificates), are issued at any level of government and used for a federal purpose, these documents must meet minimum national standards of authenticity. To prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or fraud, and to enhance privacy protections, the laws also established standard security features concerning identification cards and the processes for issuing them.

These laws are grounded in common sense. Administrators of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators had long recommended similar measures. Requiring more secure documents and procedures for issuance and monitoring is not a “silver bullet,” but this strategy will help to combat identity theft, fraud, and other crimes. Billions of dol­lars are lost each year due to identity theft, the fraudu­lent obtaining of government benefits, and other criminal activities related to this issue. Making identity credentials more secure will also help to enhance public safety at airports and other public venues.

Faced with objections from numerous states and the chaos that could ensue if people without Real IDs are denied boarding on commercial flights or entry into federal buildings, the Department of Homeland Security has pushed back the deadline for state compliance with the Real ID Act to May of 2011.

Tomorrow’s Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee meeting will take place April 19, at 2 PM in Las Vegas in the Grant Sawyer Building at 555 E. Washington Avenue, Rm 4401.  The meeting will be video-conferenced live to both the Legislative Building in Carson City, Room 3137 and the Chilton Circle Modular Office Conference Room, Great Basin College in Elko.