Florida has the most toll roads of any state in the United States. In June 2022, there were 719 miles of toll roads in the sunshine state. Now we know why, and it’s not for revenue. Actually, it’s for revenue, but it’s also because the police collect information about you at toll booths hiding secret surveillance systems to track you and your car. And it seems most Florida citizens aren’t even aware of it.
Who Discovered Florida’s Toll Road Surveillance System?
USA Today has been tracking reports from the secret surveillance program for more than six months. At that time, he discovered that there was a database collecting information about vehicles and drivers. SunPass and EZ Pass toll networks do. The Florida Law Enforcement Notification System collects information through these handy transponders.
On the face of it, that’s probably a good thing for law enforcement. It makes it much easier to track Amber Alert suspects, stolen vehicles, and cars involved in criminal activity. Florida police can request information from the database for these circumstances, and more.
Who has access to drivers’ private information?
And that’s the problem. The police can request information and then add the vehicles of their choice to the system, whether or not a crime has been committed. Legally, there are no limits for police requests for information. And the other, more sinister problem is that Florida is silent on the system in general. He doesn’t want anything related to his tracking system disclosed.
All inquiries from USA today to the Florida Department of Transportation were denied. He even justified not disclosing anything about the tracking by citing a public records law in the books. But the specific law was never provided, and several lawyers said that this type of law, if it even exists, does not apply in this circumstance.
So this all reeks of privacy issues for all of Florida and its tourism industry. Everyone who travels on toll roads now has private information stored in Florida’s surveillance system. But Lee Tien, a California lawyer with the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, had a much more disturbing concern.
Why is monitoring toll roads such a bad idea?
He told USA Today, “To a lot of people they’re like I’m nobody, who the hell cares about me? But part of what happens with this kind of routine, pervasive surveillance is that they don’t have to worry about you at first. They just collect as much data as they can and then ask who is doing interesting things,” he said.
So in the beginning, not much will likely come from the information collected. But over time, the police can pry into your information for any number of reasons with impunity, whether legitimate or not. Yes, most of our information is there somewhere. But what Florida collects should not be used against you. The laws, which are non-existent, should be very strict on who can access this data and how it can be used.
And the state should not be protected from disclosing information about what the system is, how it tracks our data, who has access to it, and what protections we have for that information. The system is paid for by the public, and those who oversee it are elected by the public, so there is no law, excuse, or reason for the Florida government to hide this information. Elections are coming up in November, hold your representative accountable for what they do with our tax dollars and private information.