Data Sharing & Law Enforcement

The privacy and security challenges posed by tracking individual vehicles are exacerbated when that information is shared with others. In Los Angeles, where transportation officials are setting MDS standards, the city has not specified circumstances under which data can and cannot be shared with government agencies and private vendors.

Already, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) has shared MDS data with private software companies and, in some cases, without placing limitations on its commercial use. City officials have also acknowledged that “some form of the data will be shared with other city agencies.”

These concerns take on particular sensitivity when it comes to sharing people’s location data with law enforcement. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has already been accused of tracking people with location information collected by local governments. And a 2016 Associated Press study found that law enforcement officers across the country abused police databases to stalk romantic partners, journalists, and business associates.

LADOT has said, “law enforcement will not have access to raw trip data other than as required by law, such as by a court order, subpoena, or other legal process.” But former Los Angeles Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who chaired the Consumer Protection & Privacy Committee, warned that when government agencies create public databases, “law enforcement has the ability to access it, and they will.”

The Center for Democracy and Technology has also pointed out that MDS could become “a barrier to entry for low-income and minority riders, who already face disproportionate surveillance from law enforcement and other authorities. Without appropriate safeguards restricting access to the data, its collection could deter underserved riders.”

Learn more about the risks of MDS