TxDOT spies on citizens, hides SECRET cameras to collect data

If have to ask ourselves if we just leaped into some Orwellian nightmare when we read this…twice in ONE WEEK we hear of the government (in Maryland and now Texas) monitoring its citizens with cameras on highways. In MD, to catch people with expired registration, in Texas to collect information about people’s driving habits, either way, NO ONE ASKED US!

It’s one thing to be out and about in public, it’s another to be spied upon while going about our daily lives! TxDOT has been hiding cameras in orange barrels along I-35 in Austin and I-10 in San Antonio. They’re taking pictures of people’s license plates and then mailing them a survey asking questions like:

1) The trip’s origin and final destination
2) How often the driver makes the trip
3) How long a driver stayed at my destination before returning

Link to the Austin story here. Link to Houston Chronicle story here. Link to Express-News article with map of camera locations here.

State recorded license plates for transportation study
10/10/2007
By: News 8 Austin Staff

State officials say cameras tucked into orange barrels videotaped the license plates of thousands of drivers on Interstate 35 as part of a transportation study.

Critics of last month’s study questioned whether it invaded motorists’ privacy.

But a Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman says the study is vital to transportation planning and was not meant to sneaky.

The state contracted Alliance Transportation Group to conduct the study.

The company mailed about 150,000 surveys to homes explaining that their license plate was randomly recorded. It asks questions such as the trip’s destination and purpose, and the number of people living in the home.

Transportation Department spokeswoman Gaby Garcia says about 3,000 people have responded since the survey was mailed out three weeks ago.

She said the information won’t be shared or sold and will be securely disposed of.

The department plans similar surveys next year in the Houston, Galveston, Beaumont and Port Arthur areas. Garcia says drivers will be notified ahead of time.

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