Intelligent Highway Systems vs. Privacy

Article excerpt

Someday, sophisticated computer-based systems will be able to tag and track cars as they drive the nation's highways. Proponents say Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) will improve traffic safety, reduce congestion, and save energy, among other benefits.

Under ITS, satellite-based systems would track and collect information about cars traveling on roads and highways. Autos would have on-board displays that could warn of traffic jams and accidents, send out emergency signals when needed, or help pinpoint drivers who are lost. On-board computers automatically could charge drivers when they use toll roads and bridges or even take control of a vehicle if an accident appears imminent.

However, according to Sheldon Halpern, professor of law, Ohio State University, ITS raises a host of privacy questions regarding the collection and storage of information about drivers. It could be used by government or private businesses to build individual profiles. For example, companies could develop mailing lists of drivers who fit certain profiles and who may be likely to buy certain products. …