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Government Privacy Transportation United States

Big Brother Calls 'Shotgun' In Illinois 475

Posted by timothy
from the how-could-george-bush-do-such-a-thing dept.
Reader kackle joins the army of free and accepted Slashdot submitters with this eyebrow-raising story: "I received a form letter from the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority saying that my first-generation 'IPASS' transponder needs to be replaced because the battery is old. I called them for clarification since the first-generation transponders obviously have user-replaceable batteries, and I wanted to keep this version because it beeps when a toll is paid. (This notifies drivers that their battery is still good, unlike the silent second-generation version, which informs them of a dead battery by sending a ticket in the mail.) The woman on the phone explained that they were replacing them just because the electronics are old. This uninformed answer made me research the device. I found that the manufacturer has recently filed a patent application for a new transponder that has a camera in it — a camera pointed inward at the occupants. How long before they make it illegal to cover that camera with tape?"
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Big Brother Calls 'Shotgun' In Illinois

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  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Wednesday October 05, 2011 @11:56AM (#37613288)

    There is no camera in any ipass system nor any intention of doing so. Camera tech is ancient, this could have been implemented 10 years ago. I know this is the kind of manufactured controversy that gets ad impressions for slashdot, but please, there are real problems in the world, and this isn't one of them.

  • Re:Let's face it, (Score:3, Informative)

    by prgrmr (568806) on Wednesday October 05, 2011 @12:05PM (#37613418) Journal
    What's your problem with Kentucky?
  • by joeaguy (884004) on Wednesday October 05, 2011 @12:05PM (#37613432)

    In the NYC area there are many toll discount programs for call pools with ezpass. In order to get the discount, you must use a cash lane even though you have an ezpass, so an attendant can confirm you are driving with the required number of people for the discount. So you pay less, but you get stuck in traffic with all the people paying cash. If a transponder had an inward facing camera then it could provide a way of letting you use ezpass only lanes and still get the discounts.

    This application makes it no less freaky. I would only ever consider it if there were some technological privacy safeguard. For instance, a built in manually operated only door over the lens. When I approach a toll, I have to slide it open to allow the picture to be taken to get my discount. After the toll, I can slide it back closed.

    There are lots of people who keep their ezpass in the metal coated bag and only mount it when they are near a toll, and there are non-toll ezpass readers all over the place, with the stated goal of monitoring traffic flow. Wanting to pay tolls faster and get discounts should not mean having to submit to random and capricious tracking and a total loss of privacy when traveling.

  • by tchuladdiass (174342) on Wednesday October 05, 2011 @12:11PM (#37613502) Homepage

    From the Illinois Tollway site:
    The Tollway recommends that these transponders be replaced for two important reasons:

            The older transponder model is no longer being manufactured and, therefore, is no longer certified by the manufacturer.
            Our testing has shown that the older transponder model does not perform as well as the new transponders on the new open road tolling system.

    The first point means that if the tollway were to update the receiver equipment on the roads, they are not guaranteed to work with the old transponders. And I can vouch for the second point personally -- many problems with the first generation of transponders.

    The other main problem with the first gen transponders, is that the battery looks like a regular AA battery, but it is actually a 3.6 volt Lithium battery. Users were replacing them with a regular AA, and therefore getting the under voltage condition.

  • by djdanlib (732853) on Wednesday October 05, 2011 @12:14PM (#37613542) Homepage

    I don't see how this is flamebait - it's a valid point.

    If you put a picture flush onto a camera lens, that's going to be too close for the camera to focus on the image, so there will be no detail - probably one giant blur. Also, it will block any light from entering the system, so there's nothing to reflect off the photo back into the lens.

    You can try it with your own eye or even your glasses, it works about the same. Look at your palm. Now put your palm right over your eye. Can't see anything, right?

    However, the idea has comedic merit. Perhaps one could find a way to make this work anyway... maybe mount it in the glovebox, with one of those electronic picture frames that are oh so popular on Black Friday, and play videos of in-car footage of accidents all day.

  • by jonnythan (79727) on Wednesday October 05, 2011 @12:17PM (#37613576) Homepage

    This has never happened. They do not do this and the state has specifically said it will not.

  • No battery in I-PASS (Score:2, Informative)

    by clorkster (1996844) on Wednesday October 05, 2011 @12:36PM (#37613852)

    The old models only have a battery because they beep and some (perhaps all) have a display showing your I-PASS balance. The newer models are entirely sealed, and do not require a battery because they work by RFID chips. This post is a bit ridiculous.

    If you want the reasoning... go no farther than the I-PASS website [illinoistollway.com] (quoted below):

    I have one of the old display model transponders that beeps. Can I keep replacing the battery instead of swapping it out for a new transponder?

    These older model transponders need to be replaced to ensure customers continue to receive the benefits of I-PASS and avoid toll violations. The Tollway recommends that these transponders be replaced for two important reasons:

    The older transponder model is no longer being manufactured and, therefore, is no longer certified by the manufacturer. Our testing has shown that the older transponder model does not perform as well as the new transponders on the new open road tolling system."

  • Summary is WRONG (Score:4, Informative)

    by LanMan04 (790429) on Wednesday October 05, 2011 @12:45PM (#37613990)

    (This notifies drivers that their battery is still good, unlike the silent second-generation version, which informs them of a dead battery by sending a ticket in the mail.)

    This is not correct when you sign up for an IPASS account, you give the toll authority your license plate numbers. If your vehicle goes through a toll and the IPASS unit doesn't work correctly, when the toll authority goes through the photos of supposed violators' plate numbers, yours will be cleared as a registered plate and they just deduct the toll as per usual. It shows up on your IPASS transaction list/invoice as a "Virtual Toll". I had a bunch of those on my statement from when I took the unit off of one car and put it on another for a week, and they didn't seem to care at all. Same regular toll price.

    The summary links for a forum post that says

    "Worse, the way they're sorting out motorcycles from cars is by doctoring the plate number in the system, so when they go to check your plate number, it won't come up even if it's linked to the account, and they assume that you're not an I-Pass customer even if you are."

    So that's some issue with motorcycles and the way their goofy system works, and this was in 2005.

    Now, since they can read your plate and determine if you're an IPASS user, and there is no penalty for not having an IPASS unit in your car if you're a registered user...why have IPASS units at all? I guess for when it's raining or the plate is obscured and they can't collect a toll by OCRing the plate?

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