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New York Taxi Drivers To Strike Over GPS 293

Posted by kdawson
from the where-is-central-what-did-you-call-it dept.
Stony Stevenson notes a NYTimes story on labor unrest caused by high-tech privacy concerns. One organization of taxi drivers plans a 48-hour strike, while another opposes any such action. "One taxi group plans to strike from 5 a.m. Sept. 5, through 5 a.m. Sept. 7, in opposition to New York City's requirement that all cabs be equipped with GPS technology beginning Oct. 1... saying GPS infringes on drivers' privacy... The Taxi and Limousine Commission passed a rule stating that all New York City cabs must have touch-screen display panels, credit card readers, and GPS beginning this year. Many taxis already are equipped with the technologies, which allow passengers to get news, route data, and other information. The TLC claims that the technology will not be used to invade drivers' privacy but will provide real-time maps and help passengers recover lost property."
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New York Taxi Drivers To Strike Over GPS

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  • Honesty? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Southpaw018 (793465) * on Saturday August 25, 2007 @04:39PM (#20356665) Journal
    I'm sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the occasional taxi driver making a tourist's trip 10x longer than it's supposed to be...
    • Re:Honesty? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by flydpnkrtn (114575) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @04:43PM (#20356691)
      You beat me to the punch. I was thinking the same exact thing.

      When I was in Korea (I'm in the Army right now) the drivers would take advantage of soldiers all the time. The language barrier didn't help. They'd drive halfway around Seoul and make 30,000 won (1,000 won is approximately a dollar) when the actual route should have cost about 10k won
      • by omeomi (675045)
        When I was in Korea (I'm in the Army right now) the drivers would take advantage of soldiers all the time. The language barrier didn't help. They'd drive halfway around Seoul and make 30,000 won (1,000 won is approximately a dollar) when the actual route should have cost about 10k won

        Has this ever happened to anybody here (while in their home country)? It's something you hear about, and it's something I could imagine happening, but I ride in cabs fairly regularly, and I've never had a cab driver try to do
        • by thelexx (237096)
          When I visited Rome about 20 years ago, the cabs charged by time instead of distance. Not only could they choose a longer than necessary route, they could pick one with the most lights too. I remember that we were the only vehicle that stopped for this one red light in particular that we needed to make a left at. It was crazy, people were honking and going around us. Fun ride though!
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by CastrTroy (595695)
            But most cabs that I've been in (I'm in Canada) have some starting fare, like $3, and then go up in increments of 10 cents or whatever for every 10 seconds of idle time, or per 100 metres (I made up the numbers). What would make the most sense in terms of generating the most revenue would be to pick people up, do the trip as quickly as possible, and pick up the next person in the shortest amount of time. That starting rate is the most profitable time by a long shot. So you want to have as many of those i
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Mike89 (1006497)

              do the trip as quickly as possible, and pick up the next person in the shortest amount of time.
              Yep, then you get the Speed Bonus. Just doesn't damage your taxi too bad or no one will want to get in it! Also remember to run them over if you reach the timelimit and they don't pay their fare.
        • Re:Honesty? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by trb (8509) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @06:10PM (#20357321)

          Has this ever happened to anybody here (while in their home country)? It's something you hear about, and it's something I could imagine happening, but I ride in cabs fairly regularly, and I've never had a cab driver try to do this to me...
          I've had it happen to me at home. Not always willful ripoff on the part of the cabbie, sometimes just incompetence. Note that the fare these days is about $2/mile in NYC, and $2.40/mile where I live, in Boston. At least in Manhattan, the meat of the borough is a rectangular grid. In Boston, take one wroong turn and you're stuck in a wormhole tangle of one-way streets, and it takes you a mile or two to get back on track, and $5.00 has ticked off the meter. I've also had cabbies take an extra lap around the airport, easy if you miss the one possibility to exit from the loop. Oops! There goes another $5.00.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jrp2 (458093)
          "Has this ever happened to anybody here (while in their home country)? It's something you hear about, and it's something I could imagine happening, but I ride in cabs fairly regularly, and I've never had a cab driver try to do this to me.."

          I had it happen in my own neighborhood in Chicago. Me and a buddy came out of a bar at 4am, drunk as skunks. The doorman insisted (rightly) that we not drive and he flagged us down a cab. It was a 3 mile drive home, a straight shot down a major thoroughfare. Definite
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Main Gauche (881147)

          "Has this ever happened to anybody here (while in their home country)?"

          Two words:
          Vegas.
          Tunnel. [reviewjournal.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by beakerMeep (716990)
      except that they make more picking up new fares because of the initial per ride fee
    • Re:Honesty? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mikael (484) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @04:52PM (#20356783)
      And what's to stop someone with a GPS receiver/logger from booking a journey and checking the route made themselves? Consumer groups and undercover journalists have done that before.
    • Re:Honesty? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by v1 (525388) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @05:04PM (#20356865) Homepage Journal
      I was just thinking the same thing, "so why are we doubling back on our path for the third time now?"

      But then the cabbies would hate it any way you slice it. I imagine they get enough "back seat driving" now as it is. Can you just imagine how annoying it would have to be to argue with every third tourist why you are taking what appears to be an out-of-the-way route, when the cabbie knows traffic patterns and is avoiding a 45 minute rush-hour delay by dodging the turnpike?

      In big cities, shortest != fastest, sometimes by a huge margin.

      OTOH, properly implemented, this could be good for both. I for one would like a cabbie to explain to me the route he is taking, and why, so that next time I'm there and want to rent a car, I have a chance. Having something like google maps up on a panel in the back showing our position, start and end points, and the proposed google route would be really nice and would in itself be a reason to pick (particular cab company) when hailing. I would suggest they put this in maybe 1/3 of the cabs in a company, and plaster their cab with notices that they have this tech onboard. Some will avoid it, and some will use it exclusively. "Keep an eye on your ride with TechnoCAB!" You could have fun with it even, have those cabbies dress up like a guy from the Geek Squad. That would also attract a certain market, not everyone likes to ride in a "memories of India" cab with all sorts of bizarre stuff swinging from the rear view mirror and a cabbie that looks like the bum you just drove by.

      • by really? (199452)
        "I for one would like a cabbie to explain to me the route he is taking, and why, so that next time I'm there and want to rent a car, I have a chance." Well, here in Vancouver, BC, that would mean you speak one of Hindi/Punjabi/Urdu/Gujarati/whatever they speak in the part of India/Pakistan the driver is from. Yes, some of them can speak English quite well, but overall it's a bit of a struggle. Your mileage might vary, void where prohibited, etc. etc.
    • Re:Honesty? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by myth24601 (893486) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @05:21PM (#20357011)

      I'm sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the occasional taxi driver making a tourist's trip 10x longer than it's supposed to be...


      I had a taxi in Denver once give me a choice of the cheapest or the fastest from the airport to my destination. I took the cheapest so I could go through town and see the place. He said he asked so people wouldn't accuse him of ripping them off if he took the much faster but longer expressway around town.

  • Can't it be both? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Digitus1337 (671442) <lk_digitus AT hotmail DOT com> on Saturday August 25, 2007 @04:44PM (#20356697) Homepage
    "The TLC claims that the technology will not be used to invade drivers' privacy but will provide real-time maps and help passengers recover lost property." While it may provide real-time maps and help passengers recover lost property, none of that means that it will not be used to invade drivers' privacy.
    • by Original Replica (908688) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @05:08PM (#20356893) Journal
      none of that means that it will not be used to invade drivers' privacy.

      How is it invading a cabbie's privacy to know where he is when he's at work? My boss knows where I am when I'm at work. I would hope that the city buses have GPSs that report speed and location to a Transit Authority dispatch. I would also hope that NYPD cruisers have (encoded) GPSs reporting to police dispatch. I imagine that the real problem with this is that GPS will also disclose things like speeding and off the record fares. Cabs work for the TLC and the passenger, and both deserve to know where their driver is going. When you are at work you (usually) are part of a hierarchical system and part of that involves your work superiors knowing where you are and what you are doing. This complaint takes real nerve when most cabs and car services in NYC have a system that automatically takes a passengers picture for the protection of the driver.
      • How is it invading a cabbie's privacy to know where he is when he's at work?

        I was not trying to make the arguement for the drivers' right to privacy at work here, I was merely pointing out that it could be both an aid and an invasion. That said, it is invading on his privacy at work.
        • by causality (777677)
          Yes, and this strike is probably a good thing - it will make it much more difficult for any media reporting on this to gloss over the privacy issue. I don't mean to comment on whether the taxi drivers have an expectation of privacy while they are on the job, but the way real and potential threats to privacy are reported really bothers me.

          I say this because typically, a news piece on a device like this will tell you all about its features, the company behind it, the technology that makes it work, why it
        • by timmarhy (659436)
          since when do you expect privacy at work? isn't that the very reason they call it private/personal time when you NOT at work. is there any mention of a tracking system in place with the gps units? no? there's your answer sunshine.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by discord5 (798235)

            since when do you expect privacy at work?

            I don't know about the US, but down here (.be) we actually have privacy at work. It's what should keep nosy admins out of your mailbox, coworkers from listening in on your phonecalls, etc. You could argue that you shouldn't expect privacy at work, and that you shouldn't use work time for personal use, but most people actually get phonecalls from family and friends while they're at work, and slashdot is just full of people reading slashdot at work.

            I personally don

            • Not in the US (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Sycraft-fu (314770)
              Your employer, if it is a private employer at least, may watch you as closely as they like. They can listen in on your phone calls (call centres often do this and they warn the callers it happens), they can read your e-mail in a company account, they can sit in your office and watch you do your work if they like.

              This is because it is their property, thus their rules. It would be the same deal if you were at my house, using my computer. If I wanted to, I'd be free to sit and watch what you did, and go over t
      • Re:Can't it be both? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @09:28PM (#20358319)

        How is it invading a cabbie's privacy to know where he is when he's at work? My boss knows where I am when I'm at work.
        Many (all?) NYC cabbies are NOT employees. They are independent contractors. They pay to lease their cars, they pay for their own (government mandated) cab-driver licenses. They pay commission to their dispatcher. They do not file W-2 personal income forms with the IRS.

        GPS trackers are being mandated by the government, not their employers. The same people could just as easily mandate that your car be outfitted with a GPS tracker too.
    • Ditto the guys above. What right does a cab driver have to privacy from his company when he's in his company's car and working on company time?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by vranash (594439)
        I don't know about NYC, but around here, most of the cabs are franchised, meaning while they may have some interest in your as far as your conduct reflects on their company, they are not in fact 'your employer'. Furthermore, I'm less worried about this being used on the drivers, and more being used on the passengers. Doesn't anyone else see cameras being made mandatory soon enough in order to 'ensure driver safety' by photographing all passengers as they enter or leave the vehicle, thus allowing law enforce
        • Paranoia? Sure. Especially since some cabs already do what you fear. You're in public, using public transport. You have a right not to be photographed? Why? The cab driver has a right to exercise their paranoia of the rider who might mug them, you know.

          everything else

          Would be a better argument if you listed the elses.
        • In new york, private (non-yellow) car services already all have cameras in them. it is routine to see the pics of idiot cab robbers plastered in the media as they sit in the back of the cab nervously plotting their attacks.

          some yellow cabs have them as well - but i'm not certain of the penetration in that regard.

          i have no expectation of privacy in a public place - and a cab is public. i don't even have an expectation of privacy in a changing room in a retail store. i would think it naive to expect otherwise
      • by Nephilium (684559)

        Heh... the company I work for has GPS on the company trucks. Some of the drivers are well known for turning it off at the beginning of their shift claiming "thing just went down again!" When someone rides along in order to troubleshoot the problem, it doesn't happen...

        Of course, the same drivers are also well known for going home for multiple hour lunches...

        Nephilium

      • "What right does a cab driver have to privacy from his company when he's in his company's car and working on company time?"

        So you shouldn't have any problems with keyloggers and reading all your email, and a camera in the washroom so that they can make sure you're not reading a newspaper instead of/while "taking care of business". Or demanding all the details of any doctors' visit that was even partially covered by company insurance. And posting same on the corporate blog for all your coworkers to see.

  • by Mikachu (972457) <jjburke AT hunter DOT cuny DOT edu> on Saturday August 25, 2007 @04:45PM (#20356701) Homepage
    What could honestly be bad about having a GPS installed in your taxi? The only thing it could possibly be used for is stopping taxi drivers from ripping off customers, really.

    Privacy threat? How is it any worse than having a camera in your office at a desk job?
    • by Paradigm_Complex (968558) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @05:03PM (#20356857)
      How is having a camera in your office at a desk job acceptable? If I get my work done at an acceptable quality on time, I shouldn't feel awkward should I need to pick my teeth or scratch my self somewhere silly.
      • If your job puts you in the company of strangers and outside the immediate reach of law enforcement or emergency services, wouldn't you WANT a camera?

        Bank tellers and bus drivers already have cameras. At some point you have to give law enforcement the tools they need to get things done, and deal with the violations and misuses as they occur. It always amazes me that a technology which adds convenience and improves service won't be backed by a large group of Slashdotters because it can potentially be abuse
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Grishnakh (216268)
        How is having a camera in your office at a desk job acceptable? If I get my work done at an acceptable quality on time, I shouldn't feel awkward should I need to pick my teeth or scratch my self somewhere silly.

        It's acceptable if that's the terms of employment. If you don't like those terms, you're free to find employment elsewhere.

        I for one can't imagine taking a desk job with a camera watching me, but if employers want to do that, that's their choice. It's my choice to refuse to take any such jobs.
      • by Copid (137416)

        How is having a camera in your office at a desk job acceptable? If I get my work done at an acceptable quality on time, I shouldn't feel awkward should I need to pick my teeth or scratch my self somewhere silly.

        What about having a camera somewhere where people are apt to steal office supplies? At any rate, this isn't a camera. It's GPS. I wouldn't object to having to clock in and out for an hourly job to verify that I was at work. Why should this be significantly different?

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          "I wouldn't object to having to clock in and out for an hourly job to verify that I was at work."

          You really believe punch-clocks work?

          A friend of mine works at a company where they tried to enforce the punch-clock. All of a sudden, overtime shot through the roof. The reason? Employees also became a lot stricter in their accounting of their time - rather than taking off early sometimes, and balancing it out with staying a bit later other times, on an informal basis, any time they had to stay later it wa

          • by Copid (137416)

            You really believe punch-clocks work?
            No, not really, but I also don't believe that they're an invasion of privacy, which was the original point. The rest of your story is nice and all, but kind of tangential to the reason for mentioning it. It's just a technology measure that's there to verify that you're doing your job. Whether it works well or not is open to question, but it's hardly analogous to having a camera pointed at your desk while you work.
      • by Kelbear (870538)
        Hmm, going on a tangent here, regardless of privacy...

        Some of those black plastic domes on the roofs of convenience stores don't even have cameras in them. They're for discouraging theft because they feel they /might/ be watched. They're opaque domes so that you don't know which direction the camera is pointing.

        There was a psychology study where a candy bowl was left out with a sign specifying how many pieces of candy should be taken from the bowl. A hidden camera would observe the subjects. One set had a m
        • by Kelbear (870538)
          Or perhaps just using a mirror in the cubicle:P
          • by Kelbear (870538)
            *sigh*

            I'm sorry folks, I'm a failure for not simply taking the time out to properly compose my post before hitting submit so I understand why I might be modded down for this.

            Still, I hate psychology study references because there's so many important details to be covered for the reference to be useful. Thus, I felt I should at least try to make the attempt at clarifying my post.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Looking_glass_self [wikipedia.org]

            The above is the link to the experiment, hopefully it will demonstrate the idea a li
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Medieval (41719)
      Well, for one, there's no way in hell I would work in a place where there's a camera in my office.
    • by lawpoop (604919)

      Privacy threat? How is it any worse than having a camera in your office at a desk job?
      Having a camera in your taxi?
    • by xs650 (741277)
      "What could honestly be bad about having a GPS installed in your taxi? The only thing it could possibly be used for is stopping taxi drivers from ripping off customers, really."

      I see you have answered your own question.
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      How about a GPS that doesn't track where they are going or report their location? A GPS could be a useful navigation tool, alerting the driver of accidents and slow downs, in order to decrease the time it takes to transport customers. I think a GPS in a cab would be a great idea. However, I think that there's no reason for it to be recording it's location, or reporting it to anyone. It would be nice to have a screen that the customer could see, so that they could see the calculated route, and see of the
  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @04:46PM (#20356717)
    This is a tremenous violation of our privacy. It will be much harder for us to make off-the-book trips and just pocket the money.
  • by AchiIIe (974900) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @04:47PM (#20356721)
    Full Disclosure: I do contract work for several companies that make mobile gps / bardoce / magstripe enabled devices for similar purposes.

    Why I do support this
    a) Improve productivity: The driver is on the job. As a capitalistic society we strive to improve productivity and, while sad, monitoring does do this.
    b) All cabs take credit cards: Have you ever had a bad cab experience? How about having no cash and driver not accepting credit because it's past 6 PM (wtf is with that rule anyhow)
    c) Bad Routes avoided: Looking at a map gives you some idea where you are and the driver would be less likely to take longer routes. Puts you, the consumer in control
    d) Better privacy: Remember the stories of the handheld credit card readers being used by dishonest restaurant employees to steal your credit card? You don't hand your card to anyone, you pay at the device
    e) Better oversight: If all the system use similar credit checking devices it's easier for regulatory groups to audit them -- versus having 30 different pos* devices

    * Point of Sale
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by winomonkey (983062)
      I agreed with your "Bad Routes avoided" statement, up until it got to the statement where you say that the consumer will be in control. As if that were a good thing. In some instances, consumer control is good. However, in this and many other cases, consumer awareness is what is desired. I would like to know if the cabbie has just been driving in circles. I would like to know if there might be a different route to take. But that will impact my tipping and potential report to the BBB or some other cons
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tftp (111690)
        not make me empowered to make demands that we "turn left here."

        If I were driving a cab and you were a passenger, I'd welcome your guidance as long as you pay for the whole route. I know that I can't possibly earn less than a fair fare (such as the fastest/cheapest route), and I also know that most passengers are not local and will not come up with an optimal route. As matter of fact, many would just become lost, on a one-way street, or on a highway, moving very fast *somewhere*, next exit ten miles :-)

  • by MarkByers (770551) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @04:47PM (#20356723) Homepage Journal
    I know when I work that the system administrators are watching what I am doing: checking which ports I have open, which websites I visit and maybe even sometimes reading my mail. It seems like this is normal these days. Good luck with the strike, but I doubt it will change anything.
    • by sepluv (641107)
      They aren't actually been watched by their employer but the government (not that you aren't also been watched by the government of course--HI ECHELON!). Specifically, they are being watched by the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the watchdog who license taxis and ensure they don't defraud/mug/&c customers.
    • The difference is that Taxi drivers don't work for the government. Mini-rant: taxi drivers are basically indentured servants. The cabs have "medallions"; rather than let the free market decide how many cabs are enough, (many) cities tightly control the number. When they add them, or old medallions are given up by their owners, they go for sale in the quarter-million-dollar-plus range. There was an auction in Boston recently where they hit seven figures for a SINGLE MEDALLION; instead of doing a lottery
      • by trewornan (608722)

        No they're NOT reading your damn mail.

        Where I work (a government department) they have automatic filters which flag emails containing certain words or phrases, eg obscenity. When a message is flagged a copy gets sent to your line manager with an explanation of what the problem is.

        Obviously you can't control the content of incoming messages but you'd get a bollocking for sending anything dodgy, keep at it long enough and eventually you'd get sacked. Personally I don't have a problem with the system - see

  • by sepluv (641107) <blakesley@gmail . c om> on Saturday August 25, 2007 @04:50PM (#20356757)

    When the insurance companies force their customers to put GPS devices in their own personal vehicles, no one is up in arms, but put them in cabs and there's a strike.

    Even though TFA is a bit vague, AFAICC, the GPS transmitter only works when they have a passenger and the passenger wants it to be on. If this is the case, this is a really pathetic excuse for a strike. Maybe the are worried the Commission will take away their licenses for using circuitous routes to defraud customers or something.

  • On The Job (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SpectreBlofeld (886224) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @04:52PM (#20356763)
    I am a staunch libertarian and advocate for personal right to privacy, but there are no valid reasons for drivers to be concerned about their privacy in this scenario. Are airline pilots in danger of having their privacy violated because the aircraft's current trajectory and speed is logged? Effective fleet management and tracking is part of the industry you're working in, folks.

    That said, I inherently don't trust government, and can start to see where the passenger's rights become threatened somewhat when the government's database starts linking credit card transactions with GPS records and begin constructing logs of people's travels. I mean, they are requiring cabs implement both at the same time. /Paranoid off
    • Very good point. Passenger privacy can clearly be violated by this system.

      Given the recent illegal surveillance activities of your current administration, I would be concerned about paying for a taxi ride with a credit card in NYC.

      Of course, it makes no real difference to me, as I have no intention of visiting the US again until you remember why freedom and democracy were worth fighting for in the first place.
    • Re:On The Job (Score:5, Insightful)

      by homer_s (799572) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @06:20PM (#20357375)
      I am a staunch libertarian...

      No, you are not.
      A real libertarian (or even a Libertarian) would say that this is an issue between the service provider and the customer and the free market should sort it out.
      If people want a cab with GPS and butt warmers, they should choose a cab company that provides it. If all the customer cares about is the lowest price, they should be free to choose the "cash only" BO-mobile driven by a mad Punjabi. The state has no business interfering in this.
    • by antibryce (124264)
      I'm not sure how this would really affect tracking where people go by cab. Currently they find out someone took a cab, they track down the cab, and they ask the driver and look at the cab's logs (which keep track of where/when a person was picked up/dropped off.)

      As far as linking it to credit cards, they don't even need GPS for that. Just get the credit card records of the person and they instantly know where they were.

  • When the industrial workers stuck their wooden shoes, or sabots, into the machinery that forced them to work without breaks.

    Privacy is our birthright, no matter how many lies they give otherwise.
    • by lawpoop (604919) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @05:22PM (#20357027) Homepage Journal
      Is that why we call it taking a 'break'? ;)
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by WillAffleckUW (858324)
        No. Breaks are short for smoke breaks.

        Originally, back when you were a child (or before), most people smoked. We took smoke breaks. Well, except for me (that is, I didn't smoke).

        Then, as we moved away from smoking, we changed it to coffee breaks, starting first in industries where many women worked.

        But that's an interesting way of looking at it.
        • by lawpoop (604919)
          Well, saying it comes from the phrase 'smoke break' doesn't really explain why we use the phrase 'break' at all. Okay, then, why did they call it a 'smoke break'.

          My guess is that it's just the natural word for the job. 'Break' also means a pause or interruption, or the ending of a period. For instance, breakfast -- the breaking of the fast during sleep. So a break in work means a pause or interruption of the work, for coffee, cigarettes, or otherwise.
    • by david.given (6740)

      Privacy is our birthright

      Is it? Er, why?

      • by Artifakt (700173)
        Long Form: Human beings are biologically capable of exercising independent thought. Indeed, doing this is the test we most rely on for determining what is human. By thinking for themselves, humans often come to different conclusions. Thoughts affect actions, and to some extent thoughts can even be assigned based on the thinker's subsequent actions. Privacy with regard to actions thus protects privacy of thought. Many times, valuable ideas require some time to develop and are destroyed if criticized too earl
    • Ah... startrek...
  • by whyde (123448) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @05:01PM (#20356845)
    So nice to know that now, not only is my credit card info available, but every taxi trip I take in NYC is geocached for me and the DHS.

    I can just imagine a movie in the not too near future (I'm writing this down because I want it documented that I thought of it) where a serial killer spells out the name of his next intended victim using his GPS fare info. The detective cracks that mystery just in time to see the killer spell the name of someone dear to him.

    Meh. Probably rent it, but not see it in the theater.
  • by SamP2 (1097897) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @05:02PM (#20356855)
    Fail to see how this infringes on driver's privacy.

    Do the cars belong to the drivers? No. They are the company's property.

    Do the drivers drive them in their own free time? No. They are doing business work driving these cars and are paid for it.

    Do companies have the right to keep track of how their assets are used? Absolutely.

    For those who compare this to companies that put keyloggers on employee's computers - this is NOT the same. If companies were to install cameras inside cabs and watch the driver's behavior (something many bus companies actually do), or record the drivers voice, or even record driving manners by analyzing the car computer's data - you'd have a (somewhat) legitimate case of privacy invasion, since you'd monitor the driver himself.

    The GPS however, only monitors the cab. In the worst case scenario (for privacy advocates) the data could be used to find drivers who just don't do their jobs, say those who say they are busy with a customer while the GPS indicates they are parked near a fast food restaurant. But companies do have the right to monitor the productivity of their workers to a certain degree.

    This kind of monitoring would be equivalent to an IT company monitoring which workstations are turned on, how often does a particular person check in his source code, or even where is the current physical location of a business laptop given to an employee on a business trip and who has been told that the laptop is for official use only, and that he should use his personal laptop for any non work related activity or travel. This is fair business practice, not a privacy invasion. If the employee was stupid enough to take his WORK laptop to a nightclub, and/or even stupider to do it on his workshift, and then get tracked there, it's his own fault and he deserves to be fired - not for immoral behavior but for abuse of company resources and slacking off on the job. Had the employee taken his own personal laptop on his own free time, he would not have been monitored or caught.

    Same story with the cabs - they are not personal vehicles - they are given to drivers for business use only, on paid business shifts only, and companies have the right to make sure the equipment is used as intended.

    Besides, there are lots of other legimiate uses for GPS in cabs - such as improved computer-assisted dispatcher coordination, by automatically finding which cab is closest to a taxi request, or by providing interactive driving maps to drivers.

    I'm all for privacy, and I hate when companies track the behavior of employees which is not related to business use or done on their own free time (such as firing someone because he visits a swinger's club or whatever). But if you do that on your workshift and using company resources, then it's your own stupid fault and you have every right to be fired.
    • by sepluv (641107) <blakesley@gmail . c om> on Saturday August 25, 2007 @05:11PM (#20356935)
      If you RTFA, you'll see that they aren't actually been watched by a company but by the government (who will watch all taxi drivers in the city). Specifically, they are being watched by the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the watchdog who license taxis and ensure they don't defraud/mug/&c customers. Not that I have a problem with that if they only do it when they have passengers and the passengers can turn it off (as the article states they will be able to).
  • From Experience... (Score:5, Informative)

    by smackenzie (912024) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @05:08PM (#20356895)
    I live in NYC and take a cab ride just about every day. I still get excited when I find a cab with this new technology suite. After all, San Fran has a much nicer, modern "subway" system, Hong Kong has that great train with video screens, and I'm sure other cities have new stuff to brag about with their transportation infrastructure. What do we have in NYC? Checked out our subways recently?

    The cool thing is that these vehicles are still the famous "yellow" taxi cabs of NYC lore, but:

    1. You can watch a real time, zoomable map of NYC to see where you are and estimate how much further you have to go. Any idea how great this is for tourists or people new to town? (Was very helpful showing in-laws the route from airport to home in real time and pointing out important locations...)

    2. You can watch news which is great if stuck in FDR traffic.

    3. You can see how much you owe and why.

    4. Legal information / passenger rights / terms and conditions are presented much more efficiently and tidily. That is, it cleans up the cab from all of that paperwork.

    I fully support the new cabs and hope that they will improve them with real time traffic volume on the maps, etc.

    • 3. You can see how much you owe and why.

      I've never taken a ride in a NYC cab but in my city (in southern Ontario Canada) the meter in the cab is clearly visible to the driver and all passengers.
    • by migurski (545146)

      After all, San Fran has a much nicer, modern "subway" system, ... What do we have in NYC? Checked out our subways recently?

      Unlike San Francisco, your subway runs past 1am, and densely covers most of the city. I'd trade in a heartbeat.

  • Boiling frog (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BlueParrot (965239) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @05:16PM (#20356973)
    For those of you who don't see the boiling frog issue...

    1:Taxi company installs GPS and charges with credit cards.
    2:Taxi company stores credit card details of it's customers in huge database
    3:Taxi company stores GPS data in huge database
    4:NSA demand access to the last 10 years of data from the database.
    5:The government now knows about every cab ride you have taken, within an accuracy of 1m - 10m, for the past 10 years.

    It doesn't matter if the NSA does not have this authority today ( hint: they do ) the mere fact that data like this can be accumulated means that it will be, and that will at any latter point in time enable anybody with access to the database to tell where anybody they didn't like has gone for a cab ride.

    Now, that was the taxi company. Now merge this data with the data from restaurants, face-recognition software on video tapes from old surveillance cameras... etc...

    The problem isn't that they can know what cab rides you have been on. The problem is that before you know it they can know what cab,bus,airplane,train you were on, what restaurant you ate at, where you placed a call with your cellphone, which "security" camera you walked by, what stores you visited.. etc etc... Much of this data is already being collected, and as long as it is kept there is little to stop a future government from suddenly overturning all privacy laws and demand access to all this data at once. If ( i.e when/already ) they do this they will be able to reconstruct your entire life. Were you politically inconvenient? Well, what have we known, suddenly there are laws which punish you retroactively...

    The scary bit is that I don't even have to come up with a conspiracy theory. The law already permits it. The NSA already has the taps running, and the legislation is already in place. Good game.
    • by sepluv (641107)

      I really think you are barking up the wrong tree with this. For a start they say the data isn't recorded if the passenger chooses for it not to be (there's a computer in the back showing the route where the passenger can choose this option) and it is only recorded so the customer can find out where they went when and on what cab (e.g.: to recover lost property). However, how do you know the NSA haven't put their own GPS devices in all vehicles already. Not that they'd need to do since they have cameras on

      • by sepluv (641107)

        Just in case you say they can only trace the cab at the moment, not the passenger (at least if you cover up your face both ends). No; if the NSA wanted to, with a bit of effort, they could probably match up the transcript of your mobile phone calls* with the taxi ride or match the serial numbers of the cash you payed with to your bank account.

        Ye. I know they claim they only record and transcribe domestic calls if you are speaking on an international call to someone they suspect has links to a terrorist or

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          "or match the serial numbers of the cash you payed with to your bank account."

          One good reason to have a $10 coin ... without an embedded RFID chip, please ...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Grishnakh (216268)
      Simple solution: pay in CASH.
      • Not if your dollar coin contains an RFID chip.
        • by Grishnakh (216268)
          I think you need to get rid of your tinfoil hat.

          Dollar coins don't contain RFID chips, and paper bills certainly don't either. Worse, Americans for some reason have pretty overwhelmingly rejected dollar coins.

          But even if these things did contain RFID chips, these can only be read at very close range. How does this link you to that particular coin? If you buy a cup of Starbucks (please don't, it's inconsistent crap; get some other brand), and get a dollar coin in your change, and then hop in a cab and pay
          • You should read slashdot more.

            Apparently the NSA was all concerned about the RFID chips in Canadian twonies just a while back.

            Of course, it was all a farce, but trusting that a commercial enterprise won't use private information for nefarious purposes is like believing you can drive while stoned.
    • by Xemu (50595)
      5:The government now knows about every cab ride you have taken, within an accuracy of 1m - 10m, for the past 10 years.

      We already do: Apart from the routine tracking of your cell phone, you also have a rfid implant under one of your nails.

      Have a nice day!
    • by mapkinase (958129)
      Pay with cash.
    • Re:Boiling frog (Score:4, Interesting)

      by GISGEOLOGYGEEK (708023) on Sunday August 26, 2007 @02:37PM (#20364355)
      The authority of the NSA or any other government agency is meaningless.

      You americans have let your government shred your constitution. Your judges don't have the balls to uphold it as is their duty.

      Time after time your government has done whatever the hell they want regardless of authority. Wake up.
  • One organization of taxi drivers plans a 48-hour strike, while another opposes any such action.

    So this'll bring the taxi:people ratio in New York down to about 2:1? Good lord.
  • by mr100percent (57156) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @05:20PM (#20357005) Homepage Journal
    This news is somewhat old in New York, and it's interesting to see slashdot spin this from a tech angle.

    In actuality, many of the cab drivers are upset because if they are forced to accept credit cards, they will have to pay thousands of dollars out of their own money to install the flat-screens in the backseat, raise the price of renting a taxi itself to drive, and allow the credit card companies to pocket about a dollar out of every fare. That will add up.
    • The other downside to taking credit cards is that, assuming the tips are tacked on to the credit card and not paid with cash, the tips because easily tracked. Which makes it a lot harder to claim less income at the end of the year.
  • by frisket (149522) <peter@s i l m aril.ie> on Saturday August 25, 2007 @05:20PM (#20357009) Homepage
    Rather than throw technology at the cabs, I'd prefer if they made it a requirement that NY taxi drivers spoke English and knew their way around the city, like the London ones do [wikipedia.org].
    • by Pseudonym (62607)

      As Dave Letterman quipped many, many years ago: The drivers would not stand for it and voted to blockade City Hall. Except nobody knew where it was.

  • Good for them (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DogDude (805747) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @05:53PM (#20357225) Homepage
    Good for them. I hope they win. There really are more important things in life than squeezing the last nickel out of everybody. Basic human dignity is one of them. There's no dignity in having a boss or a government agency knowing exactly where you are every second you're at work. That's going too far.
    • Perhaps is this to prevent drivers from squeezing every last nickel out of us. Especially in such a large city, visitors may have no idea what the most direct and therefore cheapest route is to their destination. A system that shows the path will give the consumer the opportunity to be informed about the service they are buying and agree to or protest it as appropriate.

  • How is this an invasion of their privacy? I read TFA and nothing in it says the government can track the cabs using the GPS receivers in real time. They're already turning in their route maps according to the conditions of their license.
  • Traffic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrLint (519792) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @06:46PM (#20357537) Journal
    An acquaintance of mine once regaled me of an anecdote of then the cabbies were on strike in NYC en masse. As it goes the traffic in manhattan was a dream, and that they should strike all the time.
  • by schwit1 (797399) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @07:08PM (#20357673)
    Big brother avoidance and evasion is going to be big business.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tool462 (677306)
      That won't work in a place like NYC. Cop: So where is the taxi we're looking for? Cab Co. GPS operator: You see that spot where there isn't a taxi? That's our guy.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @09:40PM (#20358377) Homepage Journal
    I hate cabbies. NYC cabbies have gotten so bad over the past 10 years that I bought a car instead. They don't know where to go, they refuse to take you places they don't want to go - because they would rather a shorter fare for the initial minimum, or they'd rather land somewhere easier to find the next fare, or they don't know their way around, or they're a jerk. They're even worse drivers than ever before. I could go on an on, but that's not my point.

    The point is that cabbies are right about this conflict. They could be safer with GPS, but they don't want their every move to be tracked: one of the few perks of being a cabbie is freedom of movement and privacy from "the boss". But most importantly, they are the ones who are being required to pay for all these new devices. Which bad passengers will smash, as they already have, and which cabbies will have to replace at their own cost. Not the fleets they work for, which make practically all the money, but the drivers themselves.

    If NYC forces them to do this, the few with any self respect will leave. The ones who will shut up and take it will be the worst cabbies around. Even worse than the current low average.

    And for what? So the City can make a few more bucks playing crappy, annoying ads to us? That the cabbie has to hear a thousand times a day, every day? So the City can spy on us, too, cross-referencing our credit cards with the GPS and probably audio (and maybe video) bugs inside the cars? Bloomberg is putting cameras everywhere, connected to probably the biggest database this side of the NSA. Probably part of the NSA system that's spying on us, whether justified by "traffic congestion" or "security" or "counterterrorism" or now, "protecting the cabbies".

    This system is bogus. Even sleazoid cabbies are sickened by it. We shouldn't do it. Our civil liberties are often under the most serious threat for everyone when the undesirables scream about their own early sacrifice to the loss of liberty. This time it's us trapped in the metal box with them, in the same boat. We shouldn't let Big Brother use our cab rides to rationalize screwing all of us.
  • by rpp3po (641313) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @11:06PM (#20358933)
    • The deal (for the GPS hardware and service) has been contraced to a vendor whose CEO is the President of the taxi garages' association.
    • The association's Vice President for Business Development is the former First Deputy Commissioner of the TLC (NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission).
    • The GPS vendor's Vice President of Operations is the TLC's former Deputy Commissioner of Safety and Emissions, the TLC officer in charge of all vehicle related issues.
    No joke, look it up on google.

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