Big brother is watching you — and his name is E-ZPass

Everett Marc Lautin, M.D.

215 East 95th Street (Apt. 20J)

New York, NY 10128-4084

(212) 369-2895

August 19, 1997

Letters to the Editor

The New York Times Company

229 West 43rd Street

New York, N.Y. 10036-3959

To the Editor:

    Big brother is watching you — and his name is E-ZPass.

    Drive through convenience, not having to stop, shorter lines — great.  Or is it?  The same computer that debits your account knows when and where your car passed through the toll plaza.  And if there is video monitoring, it can see who is driving.  Who is with you.  This may be more information then you would care to give out to parties unknown.

    While I am sure that the Port Authority of NY and NJ and the NYS Thruway Authority would never dream of misusing the information that millions of commuters are willingly providing to them, the temptation might just become too great.

    When and where you enter and exit the NY Thruway is known.  The distance between these two points is known and therefore your average speed.  Has the NYS Thruway Authority computer generated speeding tickets to users of E-ZPass?  Should it?  This could be done in the same manner as the automatic ticketing of cars that cross red lights at intersections with video monitoring.  A simple extrapolation will also show that if you cross two toll bridges using E-ZPass (e.g., GW Bridge and then the TriBoro) again a ticket could be issued if the time between the two crossings was too short.  Has this happened?  Will it happen?  Do we want it to?  I have heard stories that it already has happened.

    ACLU where are you?


                        Everett Marc Lautin, M.D.