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Odometer debate: saving earth or saving privacy?

By dcuff
Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 at 8:19 pm in driving, Environment, Freeways, fuel, global warming, technology.

Most of us want to protect our personal privacy and protect the earth from global warming. Can we do both?

An East Bay legislator said she is trying to avoid conflicts between the two goals in her bill that would require California motorists to report their odometer readings during their annual motor vehicle registration. But concerns over privacy are spurring some people to say: Prove it.

The friction emerged last week in a Metropolitan Transportation Commission committee’s 4-2 vote to endorse AB 1135 by Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

Skinner said collecting odometer readings over time will provide a reliable data base on miles driven  – an essential step toward planning how to meet California’s pioneering laws to reduce global warming gases and set regional targets for reducing miles driven.

Some skeptics say the legislator must spell out how the state will keep the information private and not use it to compel individual motorists to drive less. The skeptics’ fears are fueled by discussions on the federal level to consider a mileage tax to replace the gas tax. 

Metropolitan Transportation Commission officials say there is a way to keep the data private by not storing the mileage information with the names of drivers.

MTC officials say they have experience in protecting drivers’ personal info. The agency is plugged into traffic flow monitors that can read Fastrak transponders and figure out the location and speed of drivers on freeways.  But that data is encrypted and regularly purged so any potential snoops couldn’t use it to track drivers’ movements, commission officials say.    


Is Big Brother watching too closely? Can he be held in check. Can we spare the earth and save our privacy. Let us know below what you think. 


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2 Responses to “Odometer debate: saving earth or saving privacy?”

  1. murphstahoe Says:

    Dumb idea. Miles driven is not as important as amount of gasoline used – a statistic easily captured, and easily taxed.

    Certainly if everyone was suddenly driving 100 MPG cars we’d need more roads per gallon than right now, but gas usage is the lower hanging fruit. And a gas tax has no privacy concerns.

  2. Queen Says:

    I agree! In fact, now that you mention it, we *have* that figure (amount of gas used). The State Board of Equalization releases those numbers once a month (murph, I think you are probably already aware of this) based on the tax receipts from gasoline sales.

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