Senator Lesser Testifies on Bill to Protect Driver Privacy

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser testified on his bill to protect driver information collected by the new Mass Pike toll gantries on Wednesday, saying that they are collecting “unprecedented” amounts of information.

Speaking before the Transportation Committee, on which he was recently named Vice Chair, Senator Lesser said the convenience of the gantries “comes at a cost to our personal information and we need to protect that information.”

The gantries take snapshots of drivers’ license plates at various points along the Mass Pike, collecting speed and location of vehicles along with date and time stamps, allowing the state to “track people in virtually real time,” Senator Lesser said.

The bill, S. 1936, prevents the state from using that data for anything other than toll collection, and bars the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) from sharing drivers’ information with other state or federal agencies unless a valid warrant has been issued for it.

Senator Lesser made clear that law enforcement needs to be able to do its job, and that there is already a process in place for MassDOT and the State Police to respond to Amber Alerts and other “hot pursuits.”

“As with any other criminal case, if you want to use this information, you need to get a warrant and a judge independent of MassDOT needs to issue that warrant,” Senator Lesser said. “Our constitutional rights and our privacy must be protected.”

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