Many crucial elements of public infrastructure such as roads, bridges and tunnels are subject to ‘pay per use’ arrangements, or are being converted to them. This applies to both publicly-funded and privately-funded infrastructure, and to infrastructure developed under ‘public-private partnerships’.
Most schemes have supported cash payment, which has sustained the longstanding position of an effective right to use public infrastructure anonymously.
Most schemes also support electronic payment, of various kinds. These have been developed partly to reduce costs and improve service, and partly to transfer costs from the operators to the users.
As far as the APF can tell, none of the electronic payment schemes in Australia has a practicable anonymous option, and some have not even put up a pretence. They are all inherently identified, in that they are tied to credit-cards or debit-cards. This was not necessary. It was a design decision by the operators to do it that way.
Some infrastructure does not support cash booths, and some infrastructure that has supported cash payment in the past is being converted to electronic payment only.
As a result, access to some critical infrastructure without disclosing identity is being denied, and more operators are moving to preclude anonymous travel.
Summary of the APF’s Policy Position
1. The ability of individuals to travel without disclosing their identity to the infrastructure operator is essential to democratic freedoms
2. A convenient anonymous payment option is an essential requirement of the operation of toll-roads
3. All toll-road operators that currently do not provide convenient anonymous payment options must implement them
4. All toll-road operators that plan to withdraw cash booths must provide convenient anonymous payment options before the cash-booths are withdrawn
5. All organisations that develop new toll-roads must provide convenient anonymous payment options from the time that the toll-road commences operation
It is a vital civil freedom to be able to use transport infrastructure without declaring one’s identity, and without having a trail of location and tracking data created about one’s movements. This is reflected in ICCPR Article 12 (1), which provides for the right to liberty of movement.
All sets of privacy principles require organisations to collect personal information only where it is necessary to the performance of a business function, and to collect the minimum amount of personal information. Some sets of privacy principles also expressly require that transactions be able to be conducted anonymously unless there is a sufficient justification for the individual’s identity to be required.
There is no need for toll-road operators to collect the identifiers of individuals who use their toll-roads, or who permit vehicles registered in their name to be driven by other people on toll-roads.
It is therefore essential that toll-road operators provide means that are convenient to individuals whereby they can use toll-roads without disclosing their identity or having data about them unjustifiably collected.
It is both practicable and sufficiently economic for toll-road operators to enable anonymous payment. At least the following options are available:
- Accept anonymous payment through the mail, in cash, by money order or by similar means, recorded against a vehicle-identifier and date-and-time information
- Accept anonymous paymentat all service-points, including Australia Post, in cash, by money order or by similar means, recorded against a vehicle-identifier and date-and-time information
- Enable the use of a tag that does not require any form of identification
- Enable the use of a tag that may itself be identified, but that interacts with the operator’s payment systems in such a manner that the identifier is not disclosed to the operator
Under options 1 and 2, a sufficiently long ‘period of grace’ must be allowed, after the travel, and before data about the registered owner is extracted and a toll notice generated. This is necessary both to minimise the exposure of personal data, and to avoid the unnecessary effort and the unjustified imposition of expenses on individuals who wish to exercise their privacy rights.
In any case, the collection of funds is a legitimate cost of doing business, and so are the costs of sustaining an anonymous payment mechanism.