Going too far

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First of all, St. John’s city council has been getting plenty of heat in response to a recent proposal by one councillor to reconsider whether council positions should be considered a part-time job. Several councillors argue that the public reaction has been unreasonable, given that council hasn’t even agreed to look into the issue.

So keep in mind that this editorial is about something the council is being asked to consider by a private company. All council has agreed to do is to look into using the technology.

Nevertheless, it’s something it should, quite simply, stop in its tracks.

California-based InfinID Technologies met with the city’s police and traffic committee on Feb. 16 to pitch its AutoCop product. To make a long story short, it’s Big Brother in a licence plate renewal sticker.

The company wants to insert a radio frequency identification tag (RFID) into motor vehicle registration stickers. The unique code in the tag would be read by intersection-based readers, and the system would then automatically forward violations of traffic laws to police.

Here’s the way the committee described the product in the minutes: “The information collected from the RFID tag is sent wirelessly to a data server and then forwarded to the appropriate agency. For example, if a car runs a red light at an intersection where there is an RFID reader, the car’s information is collected, via the RFID tag, and forwarded to the local police department so that a ticket can be issued.”

The tracking device isn’t limited to red lights, either. It can be used for the relatively benign purpose of traffic counting, but it can also track parking and speeding infractions.

The company’s officials say they’ve met with both the RNC and the RCMP and “the agencies were very supportive of the company’s efforts, however there are still some concerns regarding privacy implications and necessary changes to existing legislation to accommodate the technology.”

The company claims that its product effectively allows better police presence, and results in a reduction in the number of vehicle collisions. Like red-light and speeding cameras, however, the devices have no judgement about the actual offence — they merely write a ticket that’s almost impossible to fight in court.

We have a problem in this city with bad drivers — with careless, inattentive, sloppy drivers who can’t even figure out the basics of driving, like how to operate a turn signal before slowing for a turn. We also have plenty of avoidable accidents.

But papering city residents with automatically delivered tickets, tickets generated with no recognition of the circumstances involved and regardless of who is actually driving, is hardly the best solution. It might reduce accidents — but while the concept is not mentioned anywhere in the minutes, the real beneficiaries will be the governments that would receive millions of dollars.

It isn’t surprising that similar concepts, like photo radar and red-light cameras, have earned a deep and abiding hatred in the jurisdictions that use them — a hatred, it should be noted, that often extends to the politicians who introduce the concept.

If St. John’s city council feels put upon now over a proposed review of councillors’ duties and remuneration, imagine what enmity an automatic traffic ticket-issuer would produce.

It’s a cash-grab that should be turned down at the earliest opportunity.

Organizations: RCMP

Geographic location: California

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Recent comments

  • Janet
    March 11, 2011 - 13:44

    Let's see how enthusiastic councilors and politicians are about the RFID tracking system when the data gathered about their own movements and travels are requested by citizens and the media who submit Access to Information requests. I'm guessing the Chief Constable or Premier, Ministers, judges etc. won't be too happy when it can be shown that their car was at a certain restaurant or address, at precisely what time of day or night, for how long, and where it went to after that. Even if a vehicle's movements are somehow deemed "personal information" and excluded from being divulged, each request for access to that information will have to be acknowledged -- and with enough number requests made, it could bankrupt city and provincial coffers as they scramble (with too few Access to Information personnel) to respond to all the requests.

  • axle
    March 10, 2011 - 10:41

    driving in st john,s is like driving in india

  • John Smith
    March 10, 2011 - 07:23

    It sounds like a great idea to me. Anything that can help with the poor driving in this town would only be an improvement.

  • Concerned
    March 09, 2011 - 14:42

    This is another example of Municipal council trying to gouge the public, perhaps to increase their own wages. I believe City Council should learn how to do their job like cleaning streets and sidewalks.snow removal to make it a safer and more pleasant winter city (beautiful) and forget about giving out millions to charity and hockey teams/arenas that they have done for so maney years (waste of taxpayer money) Maybe then we will get the basic services needed for the tax money paid. They after all only there to provide the basic munipal services, like water, garbage, snow removal. The rest, they should not be involved in as it takes away from their basic duties which they can't seem to do in any efficient manner. Charging more money (taxes/tickets/etc) to do more outside what they should be doing, is a waste of the public's money out the door. They should be buying more snow equipment to clear sidewalks in winter and hiring more staff to do these municipal jobs re: safety issues.

  • Rediculous
    March 09, 2011 - 14:41

    This is another example of Municipal council trying to gouge the public, perhaps to increase their own wages. I believe City Council should learn how to do their job like cleaning streets and sidewalks.snow removal to make it a safer and more pleasant winter city (beautiful) and forget about giving out millions to charity and hockey teams/arenas that they have done for so maney years (waste of taxpayer money) Maybe then we will get the basic services needed for the tax money paid. They after all only there to provide the basic munipal services, like water, garbage, snow removal. The rest, they should not be involved in as it takes away from their basic duties which they can't seem to do in any efficient manner. Charging more money (taxes/tickets/etc) to do more outside what they should be doing, is a waste of the public's money out the door. They should be buying more snow equipment to clear sidewalks in winter and hiring more staff to do these municipal jobs re: safety issues.

  • concerned over privacy
    March 09, 2011 - 13:29

    not only will this be used for evil but you will also see how its another way of tracking you if need be, then whats next putting a tracking g.p.s. chip in your body. this is not a good idea and should be dismissed!

  • mary
    March 09, 2011 - 09:52

    Where else is this being used? Why do I sense some sort of scam? Why are they pitching this to the City when the Province is the one they should be pitiching it to?

  • Turry from town
    March 09, 2011 - 09:39

    Hey Taxpayer, Ever see the traffic coming out of Tobay everyday going into St.John's for work? Not only should they have to pay,but they should have to contribute to keep the roads clear and maintained as well.

  • Willi Makit
    March 09, 2011 - 08:30

    Tax grab eh? Maybe the editor of the Telegram should take a look at the real costs those that cause preventable accidents inflict on their neighbours. Don't forget to factor in the costs of enforcement, preventable insurance pay outs, lost productivity to business due to unnecessarily injured employees and traffic delays caused by preventable accidents. We all shoulder those costs now to pay for the actions of the few. I'd be willing to wager that the benefits of the proposed system would far outweigh the costs. Not all drivers ''hate'' this type of technology, only those that regularly violate traffic laws. What's the Telegram's next editorial going to be? Ban video security systems in retail outlets because they help fight crime?

  • Taxpayer
    March 09, 2011 - 07:36

    Motor Vehicle stickers are a provincial matter. What is the cost as, unless the company is going to give them away for free, there will be a cost for every vehicle in the province. I don't think the Town of Torbay has a traffic light problem so why should they pay? Also I am sure that there has to equipment at the intersection to read the stickers. What is the cost? Here be have the City of Sin John's getting into the provincial area of police enforcement. It is not like the City is flush with money. They are already have plans t spend tens of Millions on other grandiose projects. Just another example of POOR management!

    • Another Taxpayer
      March 09, 2011 - 08:21

      This should be a provincial initiative. The bad drivers are not only in St. John's.In my work, I have to drive everywhere in NL. If all drivers are made aware of this licensing practice, they would also have to be more cognitive of their driving practices. Now if only it could detect people talking on cell phones and texting while driving. THAT is a major problem that has to be addressed.