New York drivers recently learned that the E-ZPass devices on their windshields were being used for more than toll booths.
"Puking Monkey," the internet handle of a New Jersey resident concerned with the loss of privacy on the road, also happens to be an electronics junkie -- a dangerous combination for Big Government. Forbes.com explained the unique strategy this technologically savvy driver used which allowed him to discover his E-ZPass was being tracked all over New York City.
He hacked his RFID-enabled E-ZPass to set off a light and a “moo cow” every time it was being read. Then he drove around New York. His tag got milked multiple times on the short drive from Times Square to Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan…
Watch his unsettling drive below:
Officials from the New York Department of Transportation offered an explanation for the E-ZPass trackings.
"This measure is part of the Department of Transportation's overall initiative to bring more live, real-time travel information to the public," the Department said.
As of now, New York is the only state reading the tags for traffic. But CBS13, a local news provider in Portland, Maine, did a bit of digging to uncover a few other ways E-ZPasses are being used for non-toll purposes. Here’s what they found:
-You can pay for parking at an Amtrak station in Massachusetts with your E-ZPass and at several airports in the New York area
-Toll records have been court ordered in criminal and civil cases, including divorces
-McDonald's has even experimented with E-ZPass payment options at some drive through locations
To help citizens feel as though they still have their freedom on the road, the local Portland reporters also offer some “brotherly” advice.
If it all seems like too much "Big Brother is watching" for you, you can put your E-ZPass in a shielding bag when you're not using it. A shield bag comes with every E-ZPass purchase. When it's in the shielding bag, it can't be read. Just remember to take it out, when it's time to pay a toll.
With news like this, I wonder if people will return to the old school method of fishing for change in their vehicles as they approach toll booths -- a small price to pay, it seems, to protect their independence behind the wheel.