Comments on: Why car tracking isn’t a privacy issue A slice of lime in the soda Sun, 26 Oct 2014 19:05:02 +0000 hourly 1 By: BernGrush Mon, 22 Feb 2010 05:14:36 +0000 mattmc: Yessir, put that way, VMT is stupid. But that is the fault of a very poorly chosen name for the time-distance-place charge, which the Europeans (whom we cannot possibly copy for fear of looking like pansies) call it. Reminds me of the Johnny Cash song “A boy named Sue”.

But that is not the intent of the VMT charge (note, I said intent). The intention is that distance is weighted by where, when and what you drive. So your country mile with your Tesla will be way way cheaper than my Manhattan mile in my Escalade.

Raising the gas tax is plain useless (indeed it is stupider still, than the common misunderstanding of the VMT charge). That would be taxing the thing we want you to stop using (gas) in order to pay for the infrastructure we need (roads) to allow you to drive the thing we want you to start using (EVs). How stupid is that?

If you don’t see that imagine we decide to fund the entire US medical system on tobacco taxes (since we’re making lousy progress with any other idea), and then we run out of tobacco? Who’s going to operate on your prostate, then?

By: mattmc Fri, 19 Feb 2010 17:29:43 +0000 The VMT tax is completely idiotic- an unbelievable amount of complexity and risk for a tiny benefit. The level of anti-rural prejudice it causes is ridiculous. If you are sitting in your car for 30 minutes to drive your Escalade 1 km in Manhattan and I traveled 30km on country road in my Tesla, should I be paying 30x what you are?

Raise the gas tax until we get enough EVs for it to be an issue, create more toll roads and force everyone to get an EZ-Pass equivalent to ride on them.

If EVs really become a serious issue, just start taxing electricity based on the carbon required to produce.

By: BernGrush Fri, 19 Feb 2010 16:16:35 +0000 A short video discussing Skymeter privacy: me/News.asp?id=56420

By: llimllib Thu, 18 Feb 2010 23:31:26 +0000 You really believe that law enforcement won’t demand a backdoor for the ability to gather your GPS data? I’m certain that, on cryptological grounds, it’s possible to create a system where your data is anonymous; however I don’t trust any government to implement such a system honestly.

By: AnonymousChef Thu, 18 Feb 2010 23:24:04 +0000 Midhenry,

Actually, you do have a right to anonymity in many contexts. Its not as general as the right to privacy, but it attaches to a lot of our lives through the First Amendment. Think NAACP v. Alabama, just for one point.

In any event, what you’re getting at is a question of degree. The collection of isolated data about your life isn’t the problem, its the aggregation of generally harmless data in order to recreate private data that’s the problem.

You don’t go to the grocery store to give off information – you go there because you want groceries and its not easy or cheap to have them delivered. People obviously are under no obligation to forget about it, or to not mention on their blog that they saw Cheffie today and it was great catching up with him. The problem comes when this gets aggregated – when someone starts following me or devouring every blog where my name comes up to put together information about me that would normally be private. There are some legitimate purposes for that (loan qualification or criminal investigation come to mind) but otherwise, that gets really creepy really fast.

By: midhenry Thu, 18 Feb 2010 22:49:23 +0000 In general, I think we often confuse anonymity with privacy. You have a right to privacy, you do not have a right to anonymity.

Is it an invasion of privacy if you are seen driving down the street? If someone makes a mental note of this? A physical note of this? An electronic note? An electronic note posted to a friend, a blog, a web page?

By: Turbulence Thu, 18 Feb 2010 21:27:14 +0000 As I wrote at Ryan Avent’s blog:

The biggest problem with the VMT is that it would be impossible to build a real time VMT tracker that was secure. You could still implement a VMT that used annual inspections to check mileage driven, but that sort of VMT won’t get you the infrastructure you need for awesome congestion pricing.

I have not seen any explanation for how we could design a VMT box that is secure. I have degrees in electrical engineering and computer science so I know how to design all sorts of devices, but this is fundamentally very difficult. We’re talking about a device that needs to be attached to the vehicle, and transmit data from anywhere in the country, and has to be secure against user tampering, and has to anonymize user data for their own protection. And it must be cheap. We don’t have good system design principles for solving those kinds of problems, let alone for doing so cheaply. That’s why systems like the xbox or various DRM systems always end up getting hacked. A hacked xbox will save you very little money compared to a hacked VMT counter.

Perhaps I’m mistaken, but it seems like the economists and lawyers have just decided that real time VMT tracking would be awesome, ergo, the engineers can just magic one up instantly. I don’t think that’s true.

By: BernGrush Thu, 18 Feb 2010 21:18:07 +0000 God, I just love how over the past 4 years of this big brother road-use metering fear thing 4,231,566 people wrote “this is so stupid, just raise the gas tax!” and three people wrote: “Oh I get it! The electric vehicle can’t pay gas tax, can it? Duhhhh!” Time-distance-place road-use charging is indeed a hugely dumb idea for any country with three things: (1) ONLY internal combustion engines and (2) political leaders with sufficient kahunas to raise the gas tax since 1991 and (3) no congestion. The United States had not had number (2) for the past 19 years (funny, that) and it is threatening to lose number (1), what with all the jabber about EVs. As for number (3), I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader. Keep fighting for your entitlement to free roads from the transportation fairy, boys and girls.

By: AnonymousChef Thu, 18 Feb 2010 19:55:06 +0000 BK,

The proposal is for a variable miles traveled tax to reduce congestion without using toll booths, etc. So you make the tax really low for driving on underused roads and really high for driving on overused ones. That’s why they want GPS and not just your odometer.

You’re right that a gas tax partially captures that, but most people frankly know almost nothing about fuel economy, so won’t make the connection. If you’ve got a GPS that tells you taking the county roads will cost you $20 a year and the highway will cost you $200 – the cost is right in your face. I don’t think this would kill the gas tax – you want that to encourage high-mileage vehicles.

And yes, the idea does freak me out a bit on privacy grounds.

By: Lilguy Thu, 18 Feb 2010 19:28:21 +0000 Why bother with all the issues around tracking? Why not just increase the gasoline tax at the pump? Not only does this reflect mileage driven, but it gives a discount to those who are more environmentally friendly & using high MPG vehicles.

Sometimes I think we outwit ourselves.