Transport policy and protecting privacy

The Department of Transport recently launched a public consultation on Sustainable Travel and Transport. Among the options considered in their consultation document are road pricing, tolling and congestion charging. All of these require that some system be put in place to monitor where and when you drive. With the more radical schemes – such as nationwide road pricing or a “pay as you go” scheme – this would require that the journeys of every car be tracked at all times, probably via a GPS device in each vehicle. Amazingly, however, despite the obvious privacy implications of these proposals the word “privacy” does not appear once in the 62 page document. This is a surprising omission, given that similar proposals in the UK were ultimately shelved due, in large part, to privacy concerns expressed by MPs and the public.

That’s not to say that road pricing should necessarily be opposed. What is clear, however, is that any road pricing system must be designed in such a way as to maintain privacy. It is possible, for example, to provide for anonymous payment or systems where there is no centralised database of movements. But unless these safeguards are built in from the outset, we can expect these systems to be abused.

Let the Department of Transport know that privacy is important to you, and that you will oppose any plans that create a database of everywhere you’ve been. You can email them at or register your views online.