Is Ken Hardie an idiot, or is Compass as bad as it seems?

After the riot reports, Ken Hardie, Translink Spokesperson</a>, made some comments that should scare the shit out of everyone who shells out $81+ for a transit pass in the Metro Vancouver area. Namely the suggestion that all the new monthly and prepaid Translink passes, namely the Compass pass, are associated with personally identifying information. The article then says this about the new cards:

TransLink’s Compass smart cards may also be tied to transit riders’ identities – although it’s not yet clear if that will happen only if users register their cards for protection against theft or loss. </em>

It seems clear from the comments that Translink would like to see this as an opt-out technology instead of an opt-in technology. Currently, Translink has CCTV cameras at every single skytrain station as well as inside the newer Skytrain Cars and the Millenium Line. While the tapes from the skytrain cameras are often used as evidence, the people have to be at the station to have this used against them. The cameras are static, do not move, and can’t be used to track down and ID individuals who take the skytrain every day. In short, you have to know who you are looking for and when they’ll be there, and use the tape as evidence to support that fact.

However, here, you don’t have to do that. If the system is centralized, once a user uses their Compass card on the new turnstyles, if that data is associated to the person, it can easily be flaggged that the person is on the system and which station they checked in at. This means that you know roughly where they are and when they arrived, which means that you can also pull their picture from the time index on the tape and identify individuals, putting a face to a name. This goes from simple deterrence to full-on state surveillence.

Furthermore, if the system works like the BART system in San Francisco, and you require the users to tap out as well as tap in, you can then determine where people exited the system. From there, you can determine which trains they took, and who they talked to as well. Every single move can then be tracked by the system.

The case that they tried to get Ken Hardie to commit to, (which he wouldn’t mostly because of the reaction he would get from people like me) is to say whether they could lock people out and disable their smart cards. However, when pressed about this, Ken Hardie on Twitter did say this:

<img src=”” alt=”” title=”ken_hardie” width=”300” height=”135” class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-625” /></a>

So, it’s clear that based on what Ken Hardie said, that they do plan on rolling something like this out. While this may catch the random liquor violation, I can see this being abused by law enforcement, especially the RCMP, who have a history of harassing activists taking transit to work.</a>

In short, it’s time to write some FOI requests to Translink to ask the following:

  • All information pertaining to the implementation of the Fare Gates and the RFID Compass Pass, including consultations with Privacy Groups</li>
  • All communications between Transit Police and the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit - Joint Intelligence Group</li>
  • All information about the ability of riders in the Canada Line to get Cellular Phone Service regardless of where they are on the line (the line is mostly shut down) and policies regarding the shut down of cellular phone service on the Canada Line in the event of an emergency (shout outs to Anonymous and #opBart for this one)</li> </ul> Translink sucks so bad that I'm going to have to buy a new bicycle so I don't have to deal with their bullshit!