A Pass on Privacy?

Monty Solomon monty at roscom.com
Sun Jul 17 04:33:17 PDT 2005

A Pass on Privacy?

July 17, 2005

Anyone making long drives this summer will notice a new dimension to
contemporary inequality: a widening gap between the users of
automatic toll-paying devices and those who pay cash. The E-ZPass
system, as it is called on the East Coast, seemed like idle gadgetry
when it was introduced a decade ago. Drivers who acquired the passes
had to nose their way across traffic to reach specially equipped
tollbooths -- and slow to a crawl while the machinery worked its
magic. But now the sensors are sophisticated enough for you to whiz
past them. As more lanes are dedicated to E-ZPass, lines lengthen for
the saps paying cash.

E-ZPass is one of many innovations that give you the option of
trading a bit of privacy for a load of convenience. You can get deep
discounts by ordering your books from Amazon.com or joining a
supermarket ''club.'' In return, you surrender information about your
purchasing habits. Some people see a bait-and-switch here. Over time,
the data you are required to hand over become more and more personal,
and such handovers cease to be optional. Neato data gathering is
making society less free and less human. The people who issue such
warnings -- whether you call them paranoids or libertarians -- are
among those you see stuck in the rippling heat, 73 cars away from the
''Cash Only'' sign at the Tappan Zee Bridge.



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