Are Privacy Fears Associated with Intelligent Transport Systems Justified?

The creation of wide-area, real-time monitoring systems for the road network has the potential to achieve a step change in both our understanding of the evolution of congestion and forecasting/information to minimise its economic consequences. While such comprehensive monitoring systems will provide unprecedented levels of information about the network as a whole, however, they also potentially provide substantial information about individual vehicles and individual travellers. There are therefore concerns within the general public that the potential privacy invasions resulting from this increased monitoring will create a ‘Big Brother’ or panopticon state. This paper examines whether these fears are justified. While it is shown that people’s views on privacy are very heterogeneous (varying from completely unconcerned, to concerned to the point of paranoia), drawing on research conducted into both general privacy and the privacy concerns associated with ecommerce, it is identified that the most appropriate definition of a privacy impact is where the increased monitoring associated with intelligent transport systems (ITS) restricts the perceived freedom of travel that an individual currently experiences. This paper therefore considers how the privacy concerns associated with ITS fall into six distinct areas: the volume and type of data collected; errors in the data collected; unauthorised secondary uses of the data collected; inappropriate use of the data collected; a lack of awareness about what the data will be used for; and a lack of control over who can gain access to the data. By identifying the relative importance of these concerns and their applicability to ITS monitoring, this paper considers whether there is evidence that privacy concerns actually impact people’s behaviour or, through contrasts with the potential benefits of increased monitoring, whether there exists a level at which individuals are willing to trade their personal data for an individual, (or potentially even a societal), benefit.

Presented at:
43rd Annual Conference of the Universities’ Transport Study Group, Milton Keynes, UK, January 2011

 Record created 2012-08-31, last modified 2018-09-13

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