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ITS and Privacy Issues: Collect the Data and They Will Come

Mark P. Rossow, Ph.D, PE Retired

Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) project developers must be aware that once they collect personally-identifiable information (for example, vehicle location, vehicle movement, and occupants’ identity) for use in an ITS application, law-enforcement agencies or parties engaged in civil litigation may want to use the information for their own, quite different purposes. “Collect the data and they will come” describes the situation. The danger for the ITS project is that use of the data by outsiders may generate a public backlash or possibly civil-liberties litigation that could cause the entire project to be cancelled.

This course discusses legal and political principles that should be taken into consideration in ITS design, from initial concept through implementation. Specific examples mentioned are automated enforcement of traffic laws (for example, red-light cameras), vehicle miles traveled taxes, electronic tolling systems, electronic enforcement of graduated drivers licenses (intended especially for teenage drivers), and—dating to a period before the introduction of ITS—the civil-liberties issues arising from the government mandate of seat-belt ignition interlocks. Without knowledge of the legal framework that applies to emerging technology, ITS developers set themselves up for frustration as ideas that appear flawless in an engineering office may become controversial when they reach the implementation stage. The understanding of privacy both as a political concept and a legal protection provides the foundation for future ITS progress, allowing new technologies to be developed in ways that will gain public acceptance and avoid privacy or civil-liberties objections.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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NY PE & PLS: You must choose courses that are technical in nature or related to matters of laws and ethics contributing to the health and welfare of the public. NY Board does not accept courses related to office management, risk management, leadership, marketing, accounting, financial planning, real estate, and basic CAD. Specific course topics that are on the borderline and are not acceptable by the NY Board have been noted under the course description on our website.