NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission Proposal Requiring Drop-Off Location Data Raises Privacy Concerns



On Monday, the Future of Privacy Forum joined with the Center for Democracy & Technology, the Electronic Frontier FoundationThe Constitution Project, and Tech Freedom to write the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) about its proposed rules that add new trip reporting requirements for for-hire vehicle (FHV) bases.

The proposed rule would create significant privacy risks by mandating that FHV bases collect and transmit passenger drop-off time and location data, which can be highly sensitive information. The proposed rule poses particular risks in light of the TLC’s current data collection—FHV bases must already report the date, time, and location of passenger pick-ups—and the history of similar passenger data held by TLC becoming publicly available in response to Freedom of Information requests.  With the addition of drop-off data, the TLC’s data set would provide the TLC and the public with a comprehensive view of the movements of individual New Yorkers.

We understand that the Commission has proposed this rule change in order to reduce the risks associated with fatigued driving. However, it is unclear how the collection of precise location information—information that includes details of the day-to-day activities, lifestyles, and habits of millions of individuals—will achieve this end.  Driver fatigue results from long periods of time on the road, which is information the TLC could ascertain from collecting trip duration rather than pick-up and drop-off location information of individual passengers. At minimum, the TLC should explore ways to: 1) tailor the data collection more narrowly to the stated purpose by focusing on trip duration rather than the location of passengers’ trips; 2) collect less precise, more general geographic information; and 3) enact policies and procedures that detail the privacy and security protections for such sensitive data.

Read the letter.