Here in the Northeast, we can use something called E-ZPass to pay bridge and road tolls on most major highways. You set up and account with the E-ZPass folks, they send you a box that you attach to your car’s windshield (or behind the grille), and roll slowly through toll barriers. It’s really quite wonderful. The proper tolls are deducted automatically from your account. Or, at least, that’s the theory.
It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that, convenience aside, there could be some privacy concerns. All your toll transactions are tracked, and you’re sent a statement every month or so. I can see from my latest statement that I crossed the Bronx Whitestone Bridge once in each direction on February 23rd, northbound in lane 22 at 5:40pm, southbound in lane 17 at 11:20pm. Also listed is the number of the tag that was scanned. Someone with access to the database could presumably see the same thing.
So the latest statement came, and I found a transaction at Exit 10 of the Massachusetts Turnpike dated 7:45am on April 3. Ummm, no. I’d swapped my tag a few days before that (at E-ZPass’s request), and mailed in the old tag, which is the one that hit in Massachusetts.
I called the service center, explained the situation, and the customer service rep said that within a few days, they would send me an inquiry form. This form would include a photo of the license plate of the car bearing the E-ZPass linked to my account, snapped as the car pulled away from the toll barrier. If it’s not my car, they’ll reverse the charge?
It seems that E-ZPass photographs the license plates of all vehicles that pass through one of their toll barriers. Since I can’t find any reference to that practice in their Terms and Conditions, I don’t know how long they keep them. I also don’t know what other use they’re put to, and that worries me a bit. And the part about their not ‘fessing up to the practice in any easy-to-find place actually worries me quite a lot.