Transport for London is rolling out a new smart card to replace the paper tickets currently in use. The Oyster uses RFID technology so one does not even need to take it out of their wallet to pay for their ride on the bus or tube. Riders can recharge their cards via phone or Internet as well as in the station. The new card also allows people to have more than one kind of ticket on the same card. The downside is that Transport for London has admitted that they will store the information about people’s movement around the system “for a number of years”. As one can imagine, civil rights organizations are expressing some concerns.
It seems that Transport for London should be able to respond to these concerns by anonymizing the individual’s information a bit. I think everyone can see the benefit of a card like this. For instance, if you loose your Oyster, you can get a new one and retain the tickets you have already purchased. Conversely, if one looses the $70 unlimited Metrocard they just bought, they have no choice but to buy another. Transport for London says they will use the information collected by the system for planning. If that is the case, then there is no need to link a trip someone took a year ago to the individual’s personal information. Unlinking personal information from the journey seems like it would yield all of the benefits of this new system without all the concerns about privacy.