Sunday, June 05, 2005

UK Transportation Minister proposes to track drivers to levy pay-as-you-go taxes

I have previously blogged about the "black boxes" found in airbag-equipped cars (See Article: Black box shows car crash data, Official Cars In The UAE Will Have IBM-Installed Back Seat Drivers, ND passes law about ownership of auto black box data, and most recently The Spy Under the Hood).

Often, privacy advocates ask "where will this end?" Now the BBC is reporting that the UK Minister of Transportation is proposing a new tax that will be based on motorists' use of the roads, tracked by GPS black boxes.

BBC NEWS | UK | 'Pay-as-you-go' road charge plan

Drivers could pay up to £1.34 a mile in "pay-as-you go" road charges under new government plans.

The transport secretary said the charges, aimed at cutting congestion, would replace road tax and petrol duty.

Alistair Darling said change was needed if the UK was to avoid the possibility of "LA-style gridlock" within 20 years.

Every vehicle would have a black box to allow a satellite system to track their journey, with prices starting from as little as 2p per mile in rural areas.

Mr Darling has outlined his proposals to the BBC - previewing a speech he will give to the Social Market Foundation on Thursday.

"The advantage is that you would free up capacity on the roads, you would reduce the congestion that we would otherwise face and you would avoid the gridlock that you see in many American cities today," he said.

"This is a prize well worth going for. We've got to ask ourselves: would it work. Could it bring the benefits that I believe it could bring, because it would make a real change to the way we drive in this country."

A satellite tracking system would be used to enforce the toll, with prices varying from 2p per mile for driving on a quiet road out of the rush hour to £1.34 for motorways at peak times...."

The more paranoid among us might see this as a backdoor way of tracking all motorists. As long as the information exists, it is available to any cop with a search warrant, secret agent with a writ or any litigant with a subpoena.

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