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California Legislature Passes Toll Road Privacy Bill
California state Senate and Assembly pass legislation restricting use of motorist travel histories created by toll road agencies.

State Senator Joe Simitian
The California state Assembly on Monday voted 57 to 13 to pass a watered-down version of a bill giving motorists some privacy protection when using toll roads. State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) authored the original legislation which made it a crime for private companies or state agencies to compile detailed driving histories of motorists and share the information for any purpose other than billing or ticketing with a requirement that unneeded information be swiftly purged.

"There's just no reason for a government agency to track the movements of Californians, let alone maintain that information in a database forever and ever," Simitian said in a statement.

Senate Bill 1268 as introduced mandated, for example, that all account information be purged within 150 days of the date a customer closed his account. Toll road lobbyists had the provision amended so that it now reads that such information must be purged within four-and-a-half years -- or later, if "cost constraints" are an issue. Toll road operators such as the South Bay Expressway (SBX) complained about the expense of deleting files.

"The purging requirement also would result in additional one-time and ongoing costs for SBX," the firm, which declared bankruptcy in March, stated in a message to lawmakers. "These include developing new software and hardware configurations to accomplish the purging of data as well as ongoing staff costs to administer the process. While we are a relatively small toll operator, the costs to SBX could be several hundred thousand dollars in implementation costs and tens of thousands of dollars of annual costs."

The legislation does prohibit transportation agencies from selling the broad amount of personal information typically gathered in a toll road database, including the driver's travel pattern data, address, telephone number, e-mail address, license plate number, photograph, bank account information and credit card number. The legislation would make travel histories of motorists available only to law enforcement armed with a search warrant or when the officer declares that he has a "good cause." Existing law does not focus on disclosure of this type of information.

"Relatively obscure transportation agencies have personal data and travel histories for well over a million Californians, with no real meaningful legal protection from misuse of or inappropriate access to the data," Simitian explained.

The bill allows anyone whose information is sold or improperly released to sue to recover a minimum of $2500 in damages, plus attorney's fees. The legislation has already cleared the state Senate by a 24 to 10 vote, but the Senate must approve the Assembly's amendment before the bill is sent to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) for his signature.

A copy of Senate Bill 1268 is available in a 160k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Senate Bill 1268 (California State Legislature, 8/24/2010)

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