Groups Express Privacy Concerns About Proposed NYC Taxi Rules

On November 19, a broad coalition of civil liberties groups asked the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission to ensure personal privacy protections when it considers new rules governing data collection from cabs and dispatchers.  In a letter organized by The Constitution Project, the groups asked the commission to take time to “engage in a more in-depth consultative process with privacy organizations and the public about how to achieve the Commission’s goals without endangering rider privacy and safety.”

Under current regulations, all taxicab companies and operators of other for-hire vehicles must maintain records of the date, time, and location of the passenger to be picked up, as well as the license number of the driver for each trip dispatched.  Base owners are required to make those records available for inspection by the commission upon request.  The proposed change would require this same information to be routinely provided to the commission regardless of need.

The result of the proposed change is a consolidation of vast amounts of information about the private trip records of millions of passengers at the commission, with significant implications for Fourth Amendment rights of the customers.  In addition, the proposal provides no clear guidance regarding the format of the data or the frequency with which it must be submitted, nor are there any safeguards in place for protecting the information once the commission receives it.  The letter asked the commission for an opportunity to address all of these concerns prior to adoption of a new rule.

Joining TCP in signing the letter were the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Constitutional Alliance, Defending Dissent Foundation, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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