I was recently in a taxi in Seattle. As the taxi made it’s way through the city’s crowded streets I happened to looked down at the interior of the rear passenger-side door. A placard placed on the door validated one of the many reasons I prefer to use cash as much as possible.
Another Reason to Use Cash
The full text of the placard read:
Digital camera images of all passengers are being recorded in order to improve driver safety. Access to these images will be limited to law enforcement personnel for the investigation of crimes. Images are periodically recorded over and are not retained except when used for the investigation of crimes.
This is somewhat alarming to me. Not because I commit crimes and might be caught via these images. Rather, this bothers me because it can tie my name to a photograph of my face. If I pay for the taxi using a credit card, I have associated my name and banking account will all of the images captured during that ride.
To be clear, I am not worried about law enforcement or governments, at least in this context. The government already has my likeness through military records, passport applications, customs passages, driver’s license registries, etc. I am worried about the taxi company that maintains these images. Protecting data is hard. Securely erasing data is hard. The promise of recording over these images “periodically” is not reassuring. A data breach of the taxi company could compromise both my likeness and my name in a way that the two could be correlated. It could also be misused by the taxi company, or even saved by law enforcement if a crime is committed shortly after I am in the taxi.
I still think this is far less intrusive than Uber. Uber doesn’t (yet) require photographs of passengers. However, Uber tracks your location, even after you have been dropped off. Uber has repeatedly and severely violated individuals’ privacy. Uber doesn’t care about you in the least, and actively works to undermine your privacy. I don’t imagine this statement will be very popular, but: I do not use Uber. Uber is not the kind of company that I want to support financially.
The easiest and surest way to avoid this type of surveillance is to pay with cash money. Your image will be recorded, but it won’t be tied to your name. Depending on where you live, work, and socialize, your image is being recording from a few to scores of times per day. Disassociating your name from these images is about the best we can hope for at this point.