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New York Taxi Drivers To Strike Over GPS

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the where-is-central-what-did-you-call-it dept.

Privacy 293

Stony Stevenson notes a NYTimes story on labor unrest caused by high-tech privacy concerns. One organization of taxi drivers plans a 48-hour strike, while another opposes any such action. "One taxi group plans to strike from 5 a.m. Sept. 5, through 5 a.m. Sept. 7, in opposition to New York City's requirement that all cabs be equipped with GPS technology beginning Oct. 1... saying GPS infringes on drivers' privacy... The Taxi and Limousine Commission passed a rule stating that all New York City cabs must have touch-screen display panels, credit card readers, and GPS beginning this year. Many taxis already are equipped with the technologies, which allow passengers to get news, route data, and other information. The TLC claims that the technology will not be used to invade drivers' privacy but will provide real-time maps and help passengers recover lost property."

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293 comments

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Honesty? (5, Funny)

Southpaw018 (793465) | about 7 years ago | (#20356665)

I'm sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the occasional taxi driver making a tourist's trip 10x longer than it's supposed to be...

Re:Honesty? (4, Interesting)

flydpnkrtn (114575) | about 7 years ago | (#20356691)

You beat me to the punch. I was thinking the same exact thing.

When I was in Korea (I'm in the Army right now) the drivers would take advantage of soldiers all the time. The language barrier didn't help. They'd drive halfway around Seoul and make 30,000 won (1,000 won is approximately a dollar) when the actual route should have cost about 10k won

Re:Honesty? (1)

omeomi (675045) | about 7 years ago | (#20357163)

When I was in Korea (I'm in the Army right now) the drivers would take advantage of soldiers all the time. The language barrier didn't help. They'd drive halfway around Seoul and make 30,000 won (1,000 won is approximately a dollar) when the actual route should have cost about 10k won

Has this ever happened to anybody here (while in their home country)? It's something you hear about, and it's something I could imagine happening, but I ride in cabs fairly regularly, and I've never had a cab driver try to do this to me...

Re:Honesty? (1)

thelexx (237096) | about 7 years ago | (#20357317)

When I visited Rome about 20 years ago, the cabs charged by time instead of distance. Not only could they choose a longer than necessary route, they could pick one with the most lights too. I remember that we were the only vehicle that stopped for this one red light in particular that we needed to make a left at. It was crazy, people were honking and going around us. Fun ride though!

Re:Honesty? (4, Interesting)

trb (8509) | about 7 years ago | (#20357321)

Has this ever happened to anybody here (while in their home country)? It's something you hear about, and it's something I could imagine happening, but I ride in cabs fairly regularly, and I've never had a cab driver try to do this to me...
I've had it happen to me at home. Not always willful ripoff on the part of the cabbie, sometimes just incompetence. Note that the fare these days is about $2/mile in NYC, and $2.40/mile where I live, in Boston. At least in Manhattan, the meat of the borough is a rectangular grid. In Boston, take one wroong turn and you're stuck in a wormhole tangle of one-way streets, and it takes you a mile or two to get back on track, and $5.00 has ticked off the meter. I've also had cabbies take an extra lap around the airport, easy if you miss the one possibility to exit from the loop. Oops! There goes another $5.00.

Re:Honesty? (2, Informative)

beakerMeep (716990) | about 7 years ago | (#20356765)

except that they make more picking up new fares because of the initial per ride fee

Re:Honesty? (1)

somersault (912633) | about 7 years ago | (#20357423)

Shouldn't someone should point that out to them?

Re:Honesty? (3, Insightful)

mikael (484) | about 7 years ago | (#20356783)

And what's to stop someone with a GPS receiver/logger from booking a journey and checking the route made themselves? Consumer groups and undercover journalists have done that before.

Re:Honesty? (5, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | about 7 years ago | (#20356865)

I was just thinking the same thing, "so why are we doubling back on our path for the third time now?"

But then the cabbies would hate it any way you slice it. I imagine they get enough "back seat driving" now as it is. Can you just imagine how annoying it would have to be to argue with every third tourist why you are taking what appears to be an out-of-the-way route, when the cabbie knows traffic patterns and is avoiding a 45 minute rush-hour delay by dodging the turnpike?

In big cities, shortest != fastest, sometimes by a huge margin.

OTOH, properly implemented, this could be good for both. I for one would like a cabbie to explain to me the route he is taking, and why, so that next time I'm there and want to rent a car, I have a chance. Having something like google maps up on a panel in the back showing our position, start and end points, and the proposed google route would be really nice and would in itself be a reason to pick (particular cab company) when hailing. I would suggest they put this in maybe 1/3 of the cabs in a company, and plaster their cab with notices that they have this tech onboard. Some will avoid it, and some will use it exclusively. "Keep an eye on your ride with TechnoCAB!" You could have fun with it even, have those cabbies dress up like a guy from the Geek Squad. That would also attract a certain market, not everyone likes to ride in a "memories of India" cab with all sorts of bizarre stuff swinging from the rear view mirror and a cabbie that looks like the bum you just drove by.

Re:Honesty? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20356939)

Privacy is for terrorists and pedophiles.

Re:Honesty? (0, Offtopic)

Brian Gordon (987471) | about 7 years ago | (#20357055)

Will somebody please feed this troll? Moderators, FIRE!

Re:Honesty? (5, Interesting)

myth24601 (893486) | about 7 years ago | (#20357011)

I'm sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the occasional taxi driver making a tourist's trip 10x longer than it's supposed to be...


I had a taxi in Denver once give me a choice of the cheapest or the fastest from the airport to my destination. I took the cheapest so I could go through town and see the place. He said he asked so people wouldn't accuse him of ripping them off if he took the much faster but longer expressway around town.

Re:Honesty? (1)

seanbruckman (637280) | about 7 years ago | (#20357541)

Puh-leeez buddy. You think a cabbie is going to waste his time running in circles? They don't want the GPS because it interferes substantially with them moving drugs around town, working with organized prostitution, taking tourists to black market shops and all sorts of other things that Don Giuliani has going in the Met. If real cabbies do crime, they do real crime. Most overcharging is done by 'car service' guys who don't have medallions swooping in and poaching people off the street illegally. And these guys don't drive circuitously around either, they drive straight to where you want and demand 5 times the going rate.

Can't it be both? (4, Interesting)

Digitus1337 (671442) | about 7 years ago | (#20356697)

"The TLC claims that the technology will not be used to invade drivers' privacy but will provide real-time maps and help passengers recover lost property." While it may provide real-time maps and help passengers recover lost property, none of that means that it will not be used to invade drivers' privacy.

Can't it be both?-Dress or pants? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20356791)

Do they have any right to privacy to begin with?

Re:Can't it be both? (4, Insightful)

Original Replica (908688) | about 7 years ago | (#20356893)

none of that means that it will not be used to invade drivers' privacy.

How is it invading a cabbie's privacy to know where he is when he's at work? My boss knows where I am when I'm at work. I would hope that the city buses have GPSs that report speed and location to a Transit Authority dispatch. I would also hope that NYPD cruisers have (encoded) GPSs reporting to police dispatch. I imagine that the real problem with this is that GPS will also disclose things like speeding and off the record fares. Cabs work for the TLC and the passenger, and both deserve to know where their driver is going. When you are at work you (usually) are part of a hierarchical system and part of that involves your work superiors knowing where you are and what you are doing. This complaint takes real nerve when most cabs and car services in NYC have a system that automatically takes a passengers picture for the protection of the driver.

Re:Can't it be both? (1)

Digitus1337 (671442) | about 7 years ago | (#20357215)

How is it invading a cabbie's privacy to know where he is when he's at work?

I was not trying to make the arguement for the drivers' right to privacy at work here, I was merely pointing out that it could be both an aid and an invasion. That said, it is invading on his privacy at work.

Re:Can't it be both? (1)

causality (777677) | about 7 years ago | (#20357447)

Yes, and this strike is probably a good thing - it will make it much more difficult for any media reporting on this to gloss over the privacy issue. I don't mean to comment on whether the taxi drivers have an expectation of privacy while they are on the job, but the way real and potential threats to privacy are reported really bothers me.

I say this because typically, a news piece on a device like this will tell you all about its features, the company behind it, the technology that makes it work, why it will make things easier/better/more convenient, and at the very end of the piece they add a one-liner like "But some groups have expressed privacy concerns," without ever going into detail about the good reasons for this. In other words, it reads more like ad copy than objective news. Anything that makes obvious bias like this harder to pull off is a good thing no matter what the result of this strike may be.

Re:Can't it be both? (1)

timmarhy (659436) | about 7 years ago | (#20357489)

since when do you expect privacy at work? isn't that the very reason they call it private/personal time when you NOT at work. is there any mention of a tracking system in place with the gps units? no? there's your answer sunshine.

Re:Can't it be both? (1)

Derosian (943622) | about 7 years ago | (#20357487)

It could also be the thought of having someone over your shoulder constantly, a number of drivers like their jobs, and do it because of the independence which is gained by it. The fact someone isn't watching over them 24/7 Changing the work environment might be what they are against, and using privacy as an excuse.

Re:Can't it be both? (1)

75th Trombone (581309) | about 7 years ago | (#20356957)

Ditto the guys above. What right does a cab driver have to privacy from his company when he's in his company's car and working on company time?

Re:Can't it be both? (2, Interesting)

vranash (594439) | about 7 years ago | (#20357115)

I don't know about NYC, but around here, most of the cabs are franchised, meaning while they may have some interest in your as far as your conduct reflects on their company, they are not in fact 'your employer'. Furthermore, I'm less worried about this being used on the drivers, and more being used on the passengers. Doesn't anyone else see cameras being made mandatory soon enough in order to 'ensure driver safety' by photographing all passengers as they enter or leave the vehicle, thus allowing law enforcement, as well as perhaps the company to corroborate your trip around town to your face and possibly name (esp with a credit card!). Yeah it might help, but it could also be used for blackmail, another small step in reducing our privacy, etc.

Maybe it's just paranoia, but given everything else going on around here, do you really want to take that chance? Criminals walk away every day, but how many innocent people have been put away for crimes they didn't commit based on questionable evidence, and what are the odds the data could be 'lost' if it didn't corroborate?

Re:Can't it be both? (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 7 years ago | (#20357169)

Paranoia? Sure. Especially since some cabs already do what you fear. You're in public, using public transport. You have a right not to be photographed? Why? The cab driver has a right to exercise their paranoia of the rider who might mug them, you know.

everything else

Would be a better argument if you listed the elses.

Re:Can't it be both? (1)

BewireNomali (618969) | about 7 years ago | (#20357221)

In new york, private (non-yellow) car services already all have cameras in them. it is routine to see the pics of idiot cab robbers plastered in the media as they sit in the back of the cab nervously plotting their attacks.

some yellow cabs have them as well - but i'm not certain of the penetration in that regard.

i have no expectation of privacy in a public place - and a cab is public. i don't even have an expectation of privacy in a changing room in a retail store. i would think it naive to expect otherwise.

Re:Can't it be both? (1)

Nephilium (684559) | about 7 years ago | (#20357183)

Heh... the company I work for has GPS on the company trucks. Some of the drivers are well known for turning it off at the beginning of their shift claiming "thing just went down again!" When someone rides along in order to troubleshoot the problem, it doesn't happen...

Of course, the same drivers are also well known for going home for multiple hour lunches...

Nephilium

Rights to privacy (1)

tomhudson (43916) | about 7 years ago | (#20357325)

"What right does a cab driver have to privacy from his company when he's in his company's car and working on company time?"

So you shouldn't have any problems with keyloggers and reading all your email, and a camera in the washroom so that they can make sure you're not reading a newspaper instead of/while "taking care of business". Or demanding all the details of any doctors' visit that was even partially covered by company insurance. And posting same on the corporate blog for all your coworkers to see. And you shouldn't have a problem with cavity searches to make sure you're not walking off with a red stapler ...

A lot of the taxicab drivers rent their rides for $X per shift + gas ... the only thing their boss needs to know about is that the cab is returned with a full tank at the end of the day, and they paid their $X bucks the the shift.

People don't have enough privacy as is ... maybe the fares don't want their movements tracked all the time. "Joe Blow took a cab ride from A to B on such-and-such a date" - booked off sick and went to the ball game, or his new wife checks and finds out he went to visit his daughter from his previous marriage, who doesn't get along with said trophy wife ...

People don't always lie for nefarious reasons. Removing another layer of privacy is just maing it easier for dickheads [trolltalk.com] to make everyone else miserable.

What are they whining about? (2, Insightful)

Mikachu (972457) | about 7 years ago | (#20356701)

What could honestly be bad about having a GPS installed in your taxi? The only thing it could possibly be used for is stopping taxi drivers from ripping off customers, really.

Privacy threat? How is it any worse than having a camera in your office at a desk job?

Re:What are they whining about? (4, Insightful)

Paradigm_Complex (968558) | about 7 years ago | (#20356857)

How is having a camera in your office at a desk job acceptable? If I get my work done at an acceptable quality on time, I shouldn't feel awkward should I need to pick my teeth or scratch my self somewhere silly.

Re:What are they whining about? (1)

mr_matticus (928346) | about 7 years ago | (#20356977)

If your job puts you in the company of strangers and outside the immediate reach of law enforcement or emergency services, wouldn't you WANT a camera?

Bank tellers and bus drivers already have cameras. At some point you have to give law enforcement the tools they need to get things done, and deal with the violations and misuses as they occur. It always amazes me that a technology which adds convenience and improves service won't be backed by a large group of Slashdotters because it can potentially be abused. Everything ever invented has the possibility of being abused. You deal with the abuse, you don't shut out the technology altogether. Remember that you're the pot next time you call someone a luddite kettle.

You shouldn't feel awkward doing anything you describe, camera or not. People have honest to god jobs to do, and there's too much information and too little manpower for someone to sit around making fun of you. All they have to do to accomplish that is sit at the next table at a restaurant. I mean, come on. Next time you complain that the criminal justice system can't get its job done because prosecution couldn't make a case, remember things like this.

Re:What are they whining about? (2, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 7 years ago | (#20357129)

How is having a camera in your office at a desk job acceptable? If I get my work done at an acceptable quality on time, I shouldn't feel awkward should I need to pick my teeth or scratch my self somewhere silly.

It's acceptable if that's the terms of employment. If you don't like those terms, you're free to find employment elsewhere.

I for one can't imagine taking a desk job with a camera watching me, but if employers want to do that, that's their choice. It's my choice to refuse to take any such jobs.

Re:What are they whining about? (1)

Copid (137416) | about 7 years ago | (#20357239)

How is having a camera in your office at a desk job acceptable? If I get my work done at an acceptable quality on time, I shouldn't feel awkward should I need to pick my teeth or scratch my self somewhere silly.
What about having a camera somewhere where people are apt to steal office supplies? At any rate, this isn't a camera. It's GPS. I wouldn't object to having to clock in and out for an hourly job to verify that I was at work. Why should this be significantly different?

Re:What are they whining about? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | about 7 years ago | (#20357413)

"I wouldn't object to having to clock in and out for an hourly job to verify that I was at work."

You really believe punch-clocks work?

A friend of mine works at a company where they tried to enforce the punch-clock. All of a sudden, overtime shot through the roof. The reason? Employees also became a lot stricter in their accounting of their time - rather than taking off early sometimes, and balancing it out with staying a bit later other times, on an informal basis, any time they had to stay later it was an automatic extra hour or two on the punch card, at time-and-a-half.

Now they don't care who punches who's punch card, as long as the work gets done. The cards get punched so that management can save face by not rescinding the "you have to punch in and out" rule, and people leave early when they can, and stay a bit when they have to. Better a civilized solution; being a bunch of dickheads* [trolltalk.com] can be expensive.

(*do not click on the link unless you're a dickhead)

Re:What are they whining about? (1)

Kelbear (870538) | about 7 years ago | (#20357443)

Hmm, going on a tangent here, regardless of privacy...

Some of those black plastic domes on the roofs of convenience stores don't even have cameras in them. They're for discouraging theft because they feel they /might/ be watched. They're opaque domes so that you don't know which direction the camera is pointing.

There was a psychology study where a candy bowl was left out with a sign specifying how many pieces of candy should be taken from the bowl. A hidden camera would observe the subjects. One set had a mirror in front of the bowl, the other set did not have a mirror.

Seeing themselves being observed, even by themselves caused subjects to pause longer in front of bowl, and more subjects obeyed the sign. Even the thought of being seen kept them from breaking that rule.

Anyway, if I was an asshole boss I might to tighten employee buttcheeks while on the job by creating the possibility that someone is watching their performance, even if I actually wasn't monitoring anything at all(Expensive and unproductive).

Re:What are they whining about? (1)

Kelbear (870538) | about 7 years ago | (#20357467)

Or perhaps just using a mirror in the cubicle:P

Re:What are they whining about? (1)

Kelbear (870538) | about 7 years ago | (#20357509)

*sigh*

I'm sorry folks, I'm a failure for not simply taking the time out to properly compose my post before hitting submit so I understand why I might be modded down for this.

Still, I hate psychology study references because there's so many important details to be covered for the reference to be useful. Thus, I felt I should at least try to make the attempt at clarifying my post.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Looking_glass_self [wikipedia.org]

The above is the link to the experiment, hopefully it will demonstrate the idea a little better.

Re:What are they whining about? (2, Insightful)

Medieval (41719) | about 7 years ago | (#20356869)

Well, for one, there's no way in hell I would work in a place where there's a camera in my office.

Re:What are they whining about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20357523)

Don't worry, we'll just put hidden cameras in so you won't notice.

Re:What are they whining about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20356887)

Privacy threat? How is it any worse than having a camera in your office at a desk job?

I don't think having a camera in your office at a desk job would be a good thing.

Re:What are they whining about? (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | about 7 years ago | (#20356933)

and then there's the whole it probably can't track drivers thing. It's a GPS. It can tell you where you are and where to go. It'd cost a hell of a lot extra to set up some master control room with logging that will say where every driver went that day and I seriously doubt they set it up to do that.

Re:What are they whining about? (1)

lawpoop (604919) | about 7 years ago | (#20356949)

Privacy threat? How is it any worse than having a camera in your office at a desk job?
Having a camera in your taxi?

Re:What are they whining about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20357109)

Privacy threat? How is it any worse than having a camera in your office at a desk job?

WTF? Where do you work? The Oceania Ministry of Truth?

Meh (1)

webheaded (997188) | about 7 years ago | (#20356703)

I get the privacy concerns, because if places are allowed to abuse it and track all their drivers, they will, but the stuff they are adding on seems really cool to me. They'd be able to take credit cards AND have GPS services to navigate better...I mean...that sounds like a really good idea to me and they justified it pretty well saying that the cabbies get better tips and longer rides.

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20356747)

Bullshit, you can't track someone via GPS (unless you use it in combination with a mobile phone or something like that).

Re:Meh (1)

islanduniverse (925110) | about 7 years ago | (#20357081)

AC, think before you post... You can log the GPS data!
That's what we do at work for peak period traffic analysis. Duh!

Re:Meh (1)

SRA8 (859587) | about 7 years ago | (#20357103)

Unless you are the cab driver who has to front 2-5% in credit card merchant charges...

That's life (0, Troll)

jerkface.us (1022871) | about 7 years ago | (#20356705)

Sorry, but unless you're driving your cab to an abortion clinic, I don't think your giving up any more privacy than the rest of us.

Re:That's life (5, Funny)

deftcoder (1090261) | about 7 years ago | (#20357235)

How on Earth did you manage to use you're/your both correctly and incorrectly in the same sentence?

Privacy concern? (1)

mathfeel (937008) | about 7 years ago | (#20356709)

Maybe I have not been thinking about this hard enough, but isn't GPS a passive system in that the receiver only listen to signal but doesn't transmit any. Are they concerned about a GPS reciever that would record the route? My GPS only record the few previous destinations.

Off the book trips (2, Funny)

frovingslosh (582462) | about 7 years ago | (#20356717)

This is a tremenous violation of our privacy. It will be much harder for us to make off-the-book trips and just pocket the money.

Re:Off the book trips (1)

nomadic (141991) | about 7 years ago | (#20356989)

Unless they're hacking their fare machines, that doesn't really happen. Plus most of them rent their cabs for set fees a day, so whatever they get over that rental fee they keep. They're not going to get anything from "off-the-book trips", since they're still paying the same rental fee, and anything over that they're keeping for themselves anyway.

Re:Off the book trips (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | about 7 years ago | (#20357141)

Nah, even those of us renting the cab don't want to pay income tax on all of our income, only reporting about 1/2 of it is a big savings. For those of us not renting we can still get decent income by grabbing a fare, such as back to the airport, and keeping it off the meter. Can't do it quite as much since the odometer will give long trips away, but we make enough off-meter travel to the next fare to be able to pad some. Most people are quite willing to pay a fixed amount off-meter rather than watch that meter tick off while the cab sits in traffic.

I'm sorry but I support the devices (5, Insightful)

AchiIIe (974900) | about 7 years ago | (#20356721)

Full Disclosure: I do contract work for several companies that make mobile gps / bardoce / magstripe enabled devices for similar purposes.

Why I do support this
a) Improve productivity: The driver is on the job. As a capitalistic society we strive to improve productivity and, while sad, monitoring does do this.
b) All cabs take credit cards: Have you ever had a bad cab experience? How about having no cash and driver not accepting credit because it's past 6 PM (wtf is with that rule anyhow)
c) Bad Routes avoided: Looking at a map gives you some idea where you are and the driver would be less likely to take longer routes. Puts you, the consumer in control
d) Better privacy: Remember the stories of the handheld credit card readers being used by dishonest restaurant employees to steal your credit card? You don't hand your card to anyone, you pay at the device
e) Better oversight: If all the system use similar credit checking devices it's easier for regulatory groups to audit them -- versus having 30 different pos* devices

* Point of Sale

I'm sorry but I support robocabs. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20356885)

Now coming to a city near you. Johnny Cab [ugo.com]

Re:I'm sorry but I support the devices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20356969)

I can see that the benefits are, on balance, worth having, but I also see the concerns of the drivers. Almost no-one likes the feeling of being continuously monitored, regardless of any potential privacy issues here.

Another issue is that people tend to bend the rules a bit, which this system would prevent. For example, at Heathrow Airport, passengers have to state where they are going, and the driver is not allowed to return to the airport within a certain period if the drop-off location is a certain distance away (don't ask me why, but that's the rule). As a consequence, if the drop off is reasonably near, many people who know the system lie about the drop-off location, and then tell the driver to take them a bit further. The taxi driver gives you a discount and he gets to return to the airport. This system would prevent that from happening - a lose-lose situation for the driver and the passenger. I'm sure the regulators would love to prevent this from happening, but we don't want that to happen!

The article does state that the terms of the contract states that the location of the taxis when the drivers are off duty cannot be shared with the Taxi and Limousine Commission. However, as far as I know, the US doesn't have particularly strong data protection laws, unlike the UK where I live. If the system designers haven't taken the concerns of the drivers into account when building this system (which it doesn't sound like they particularly have), I'm not surprised the drivers are in uproar about it, even if, on balance the technology could be beneficial.

Re:I'm sorry but I support the devices (2, Interesting)

winomonkey (983062) | about 7 years ago | (#20357599)

I agreed with your "Bad Routes avoided" statement, up until it got to the statement where you say that the consumer will be in control. As if that were a good thing. In some instances, consumer control is good. However, in this and many other cases, consumer awareness is what is desired. I would like to know if the cabbie has just been driving in circles. I would like to know if there might be a different route to take. But that will impact my tipping and potential report to the BBB or some other consumer rights group, not make me empowered to make demands that we "turn left here."

I know that customers often think that they are right. They have read about new technology 'x' - and it needs to be a part of the development solution, now! They may well be dead wrong. They do not know about the pitfalls and implementation details. Similarly, a tourist might think that taking route 'x' through Manhattan will be the best way, while the driver knows about the construction projects, traffic jams, and other norms that are beyond the knowledge of an overly enthusiastic customer.

Privacy while at work? (4, Insightful)

MarkByers (770551) | about 7 years ago | (#20356723)

I know when I work that the system administrators are watching what I am doing: checking which ports I have open, which websites I visit and maybe even sometimes reading my mail. It seems like this is normal these days. Good luck with the strike, but I doubt it will change anything.

Re:Privacy while at work? (1)

sepluv (641107) | about 7 years ago | (#20356833)

They aren't actually been watched by their employer but the government (not that you aren't also been watched by the government of course--HI ECHELON!). Specifically, they are being watched by the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the watchdog who license taxis and ensure they don't defraud/mug/&c customers.

taxi drivers don't work for the government (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 7 years ago | (#20357049)

The difference is that Taxi drivers don't work for the government. Mini-rant: taxi drivers are basically indentured servants. The cabs have "medallions"; rather than let the free market decide how many cabs are enough, (many) cities tightly control the number. When they add them, or old medallions are given up by their owners, they go for sale in the quarter-million-dollar-plus range. There was an auction in Boston recently where they hit seven figures for a SINGLE MEDALLION; instead of doing a lottery (the old system was simply "if you know people"), they did an auction, and claimed it would "help the little guys". Bullshit- the little guys don't have that kind of cash. The big cab companies do.

So, the driver is "leasing" a 2-inch square piece of metal and the cab it is attached to, because he/she could never afford to buy one themselves.

The rates cabs can charge are set by the Boston Police department. The per-shift charge owners can charge to lease the cab? Ding ding! You guessed it, set by the city.

It's modern-day sharecropping.

I know when I work that the system administrators are watching what I am doing: checking which ports I have open, which websites I visit and maybe even sometimes reading my mail.

No they're NOT reading your damn mail. I hate these claims. 99.9% of the sysadmins out there a)are horrified by such a suggestion and b)don't have time to do it anyway.

Maybe if you work at a large company someone is spot-checking outgoing email or they're running filters with certain keywords (looking for sexual harassment and such), but...gaaaaah.

Re:taxi drivers don't work for the government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20357099)

Who uses cabs in Boston? There's so much inexpensive parking.

already tracked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20356735)

I used to work with a company that deployed GPS devices to their sales people. They had similar concerns until I pointed out to a friend that the company could already track us fairly easily using our mobile phones if they really wanted to. GPS could just make that a bit easier.

Pathetic excuse for a strike (2, Interesting)

sepluv (641107) | about 7 years ago | (#20356757)

When the insurance companies force their customers to put GPS devices in their own personal vehicles, no one is up in arms, but put them in cabs and there's a strike.

Even though TFA is a bit vague, AFAICC, the GPS transmitter only works when they have a passenger and the passenger wants it to be on. If this is the case, this is a really pathetic excuse for a strike. Maybe the are worried the Commission will take away their licenses for using circuitous routes to defraud customers or something.

On The Job (4, Interesting)

SpectreBlofeld (886224) | about 7 years ago | (#20356763)

I am a staunch libertarian and advocate for personal right to privacy, but there are no valid reasons for drivers to be concerned about their privacy in this scenario. Are airline pilots in danger of having their privacy violated because the aircraft's current trajectory and speed is logged? Effective fleet management and tracking is part of the industry you're working in, folks.

That said, I inherently don't trust government, and can start to see where the passenger's rights become threatened somewhat when the government's database starts linking credit card transactions with GPS records and begin constructing logs of people's travels. I mean, they are requiring cabs implement both at the same time. /Paranoid off

Re:On The Job (1)

mattpalmer1086 (707360) | about 7 years ago | (#20357085)

Very good point. Passenger privacy can clearly be violated by this system.

Given the recent illegal surveillance activities of your current administration, I would be concerned about paying for a taxi ride with a credit card in NYC.

Of course, it makes no real difference to me, as I have no intention of visiting the US again until you remember why freedom and democracy were worth fighting for in the first place.

Re:On The Job (4, Insightful)

homer_s (799572) | about 7 years ago | (#20357375)

I am a staunch libertarian...

No, you are not.
A real libertarian (or even a Libertarian) would say that this is an issue between the service provider and the customer and the free market should sort it out.
If people want a cab with GPS and butt warmers, they should choose a cab company that provides it. If all the customer cares about is the lowest price, they should be free to choose the "cash only" BO-mobile driven by a mad Punjabi. The state has no business interfering in this.

Re:On The Job (1)

antibryce (124264) | about 7 years ago | (#20357439)

I'm not sure how this would really affect tracking where people go by cab. Currently they find out someone took a cab, they track down the cab, and they ask the driver and look at the cab's logs (which keep track of where/when a person was picked up/dropped off.)

As far as linking it to credit cards, they don't even need GPS for that. Just get the credit card records of the person and they instantly know where they were.

This is how sabotage started (1, Interesting)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 7 years ago | (#20356779)

When the industrial workers stuck their wooden shoes, or sabots, into the machinery that forced them to work without breaks.

Privacy is our birthright, no matter how many lies they give otherwise.

Re:This is how sabotage started (3, Interesting)

lawpoop (604919) | about 7 years ago | (#20357027)

Is that why we call it taking a 'break'? ;)

Re:This is how sabotage started (2, Interesting)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 7 years ago | (#20357429)

No. Breaks are short for smoke breaks.

Originally, back when you were a child (or before), most people smoked. We took smoke breaks. Well, except for me (that is, I didn't smoke).

Then, as we moved away from smoking, we changed it to coffee breaks, starting first in industries where many women worked.

But that's an interesting way of looking at it.

Re:This is how sabotage started (1)

david.given (6740) | about 7 years ago | (#20357051)

Privacy is our birthright

Is it? Er, why?

Re:This is how sabotage started (1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | about 7 years ago | (#20357101)

Ah... startrek...

What do my fares spell out? (4, Funny)

whyde (123448) | about 7 years ago | (#20356845)

So nice to know that now, not only is my credit card info available, but every taxi trip I take in NYC is geocached for me and the DHS.

I can just imagine a movie in the not too near future (I'm writing this down because I want it documented that I thought of it) where a serial killer spells out the name of his next intended victim using his GPS fare info. The detective cracks that mystery just in time to see the killer spell the name of someone dear to him.

Meh. Probably rent it, but not see it in the theater.

Asset tracking != Privacy violation (3, Insightful)

SamP2 (1097897) | about 7 years ago | (#20356855)

Fail to see how this infringes on driver's privacy.

Do the cars belong to the drivers? No. They are the company's property.

Do the drivers drive them in their own free time? No. They are doing business work driving these cars and are paid for it.

Do companies have the right to keep track of how their assets are used? Absolutely.

For those who compare this to companies that put keyloggers on employee's computers - this is NOT the same. If companies were to install cameras inside cabs and watch the driver's behavior (something many bus companies actually do), or record the drivers voice, or even record driving manners by analyzing the car computer's data - you'd have a (somewhat) legitimate case of privacy invasion, since you'd monitor the driver himself.

The GPS however, only monitors the cab. In the worst case scenario (for privacy advocates) the data could be used to find drivers who just don't do their jobs, say those who say they are busy with a customer while the GPS indicates they are parked near a fast food restaurant. But companies do have the right to monitor the productivity of their workers to a certain degree.

This kind of monitoring would be equivalent to an IT company monitoring which workstations are turned on, how often does a particular person check in his source code, or even where is the current physical location of a business laptop given to an employee on a business trip and who has been told that the laptop is for official use only, and that he should use his personal laptop for any non work related activity or travel. This is fair business practice, not a privacy invasion. If the employee was stupid enough to take his WORK laptop to a nightclub, and/or even stupider to do it on his workshift, and then get tracked there, it's his own fault and he deserves to be fired - not for immoral behavior but for abuse of company resources and slacking off on the job. Had the employee taken his own personal laptop on his own free time, he would not have been monitored or caught.

Same story with the cabs - they are not personal vehicles - they are given to drivers for business use only, on paid business shifts only, and companies have the right to make sure the equipment is used as intended.

Besides, there are lots of other legimiate uses for GPS in cabs - such as improved computer-assisted dispatcher coordination, by automatically finding which cab is closest to a taxi request, or by providing interactive driving maps to drivers.

I'm all for privacy, and I hate when companies track the behavior of employees which is not related to business use or done on their own free time (such as firing someone because he visits a swinger's club or whatever). But if you do that on your workshift and using company resources, then it's your own stupid fault and you have every right to be fired.

Re:Asset tracking != Privacy violation (3, Informative)

sepluv (641107) | about 7 years ago | (#20356935)

If you RTFA, you'll see that they aren't actually been watched by a company but by the government (who will watch all taxi drivers in the city). Specifically, they are being watched by the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the watchdog who license taxis and ensure they don't defraud/mug/&c customers. Not that I have a problem with that if they only do it when they have passengers and the passengers can turn it off (as the article states they will be able to).

Re:Asset tracking != Privacy violation (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20357535)

In an office cubicle, "Hmm, Bill look at this log."

----
080709:1823:136.346:074.234:484199872:Client Pays VISA 5784294893957493
080709:1823:136.346:074.234:484199872:Client Selects No Trip Logging
080709:1826:136.346:074.259:484199872:Point
080709:1829:136.772:074.259:484199872:Point
080709:1833:136.772:073.984:484199872:Point
080709:1838:136.945:073.984:484199872:Point
080709:1843:136.945:073.984:484199872:Client Leaves Vehicle
----

Bill, "Well, log it into L4 suspicious. Wonder when they will figure out the 'No Log' button is just like a VCR power button. By the way Frank, why's your chair heart monitor signaling a 20% increase?"

Frank, "Oh, I always thought the off button shut it off."

Bill, "After working here for 4 years, you should know no computer is off unless you unplug it."

A littlle late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20356883)

This is yesterday's story. And not much of one.

From Experience... (4, Informative)

smackenzie (912024) | about 7 years ago | (#20356895)

I live in NYC and take a cab ride just about every day. I still get excited when I find a cab with this new technology suite. After all, San Fran has a much nicer, modern "subway" system, Hong Kong has that great train with video screens, and I'm sure other cities have new stuff to brag about with their transportation infrastructure. What do we have in NYC? Checked out our subways recently?

The cool thing is that these vehicles are still the famous "yellow" taxi cabs of NYC lore, but:

1. You can watch a real time, zoomable map of NYC to see where you are and estimate how much further you have to go. Any idea how great this is for tourists or people new to town? (Was very helpful showing in-laws the route from airport to home in real time and pointing out important locations...)

2. You can watch news which is great if stuck in FDR traffic.

3. You can see how much you owe and why.

4. Legal information / passenger rights / terms and conditions are presented much more efficiently and tidily. That is, it cleans up the cab from all of that paperwork.

I fully support the new cabs and hope that they will improve them with real time traffic volume on the maps, etc.

Re:From Experience... (1)

garett_spencley (193892) | about 7 years ago | (#20357315)

3. You can see how much you owe and why.

I've never taken a ride in a NYC cab but in my city (in southern Ontario Canada) the meter in the cab is clearly visible to the driver and all passengers.

To Be Expected... (1)

morari (1080535) | about 7 years ago | (#20356931)

While I personally haven ever understood the regular use of taxi cabs or credit cards, I can see this being superficially benefiting for those that do. It is to be expected that the employees are watched, especially since taxi drivers are notorious for taking routes that are longer than necessary. Certainly, being able to swipe your credit card at the machine provides a better sense of security than handing it to whomever is up front driving.

What worried me is that those credits cards are now tied to this GPS system. Everywhere you go in these taxi cabs will now be on record if you use your credit card. Like I said, I think the rate at which people regularly use taxi cabs and credit cards is ridiculous anyway. Simply using cash would help people to avoid a whole deluge of privacy concerns, not just the ones from the taxi cabs of tomorrow.

Boiling frog (5, Interesting)

BlueParrot (965239) | about 7 years ago | (#20356973)

For those of you who don't see the boiling frog issue...

1:Taxi company installs GPS and charges with credit cards.
2:Taxi company stores credit card details of it's customers in huge database
3:Taxi company stores GPS data in huge database
4:NSA demand access to the last 10 years of data from the database.
5:The government now knows about every cab ride you have taken, within an accuracy of 1m - 10m, for the past 10 years.

It doesn't matter if the NSA does not have this authority today ( hint: they do ) the mere fact that data like this can be accumulated means that it will be, and that will at any latter point in time enable anybody with access to the database to tell where anybody they didn't like has gone for a cab ride.

Now, that was the taxi company. Now merge this data with the data from restaurants, face-recognition software on video tapes from old surveillance cameras... etc...

The problem isn't that they can know what cab rides you have been on. The problem is that before you know it they can know what cab,bus,airplane,train you were on, what restaurant you ate at, where you placed a call with your cellphone, which "security" camera you walked by, what stores you visited.. etc etc... Much of this data is already being collected, and as long as it is kept there is little to stop a future government from suddenly overturning all privacy laws and demand access to all this data at once. If ( i.e when/already ) they do this they will be able to reconstruct your entire life. Were you politically inconvenient? Well, what have we known, suddenly there are laws which punish you retroactively...

The scary bit is that I don't even have to come up with a conspiracy theory. The law already permits it. The NSA already has the taps running, and the legislation is already in place. Good game.

Re:Boiling frog (1)

sepluv (641107) | about 7 years ago | (#20357173)

I really think you are barking up the wrong tree with this. For a start they say the data isn't recorded if the passenger chooses for it not to be (there's a computer in the back showing the route where the passenger can choose this option) and it is only recorded so the customer can find out where they went when and on what cab (e.g.: to recover lost property). However, how do you know the NSA haven't put their own GPS devices in all vehicles already. Not that they'd need to do since they have cameras on every street corner with number plate and face recognition technology as well as vehicle tracking by recon satellites.

I don't see the fact that the NSA might get hold of data from technology a reason not to use that technology (computers, cars or GPS in taxis) per se. I'm not in the US, but the logical answer would be for you to hold your government to account by forcing them to tell the public how many of your tax dollars are used by the NSA for domestic spying, what data the NSA collect or retain on US citizens and the purpose of any such data collection or retention. As I understand it, the majority of your fellow citizens don't give a dingos kidney about their privacy as long as they get 24-hour TV and the US government still officially denies that the NSA does any domestic spying, so I wish you luck.

Re:Boiling frog (1)

sepluv (641107) | about 7 years ago | (#20357301)

Just in case you say they can only trace the cab at the moment, not the passenger (at least if you cover up your face both ends). No; if the NSA wanted to, with a bit of effort, they could probably match up the transcript of your mobile phone calls* with the taxi ride or match the serial numbers of the cash you payed with to your bank account.

Ye. I know they claim they only record and transcribe domestic calls if you are speaking on an international call to someone they suspect has links to a terrorist organisation (whatever that's supposed to mean--basically "someone they suspect has links to an organisation"), but do you really believe that. Anyway, just your call log might tell them enough. Also, some people claim that domestic mobile calls are routed through satellites and that leaving the Earth's atmosphere makes them international, so technically the NSA aren't lying.

Re:Boiling frog (1)

tomhudson (43916) | about 7 years ago | (#20357499)

"or match the serial numbers of the cash you payed with to your bank account."

One good reason to have a $10 coin ... without an embedded RFID chip, please ...

Re:Boiling frog (2, Informative)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 7 years ago | (#20357187)

Simple solution: pay in CASH.

Re:Boiling frog (1)

Xemu (50595) | about 7 years ago | (#20357209)

5:The government now knows about every cab ride you have taken, within an accuracy of 1m - 10m, for the past 10 years.

We already do: Apart from the routine tracking of your cell phone, you also have a rfid implant under one of your nails.

Have a nice day!

Re:Boiling frog (1)

mapkinase (958129) | about 7 years ago | (#20357383)

Pay with cash.

Painful strike (1)

jez9999 (618189) | about 7 years ago | (#20356979)

One organization of taxi drivers plans a 48-hour strike, while another opposes any such action.

So this'll bring the taxi:people ratio in New York down to about 2:1? Good lord.

Not the whole story. (4, Insightful)

mr100percent (57156) | about 7 years ago | (#20357005)

This news is somewhat old in New York, and it's interesting to see slashdot spin this from a tech angle.

In actuality, many of the cab drivers are upset because if they are forced to accept credit cards, they will have to pay thousands of dollars out of their own money to install the flat-screens in the backseat, raise the price of renting a taxi itself to drive, and allow the credit card companies to pocket about a dollar out of every fare. That will add up.

Re:Not the whole story. (1)

eipgam (945201) | about 7 years ago | (#20357255)

They could just charge a fee for passengers wanting to pay by credit card.

Re:Not the whole story. (1)

iPaige (834088) | about 7 years ago | (#20357565)

"They could just charge a fee for those paying by credit card"

That's against all major card issuerers policies.

Don't forget tips (1)

faloi (738831) | about 7 years ago | (#20357411)

The other downside to taking credit cards is that, assuming the tips are tacked on to the credit card and not paid with cash, the tips because easily tracked. Which makes it a lot harder to claim less income at the end of the year.

Glutaeo-Humeroid Distinction Disability (5, Interesting)

frisket (149522) | about 7 years ago | (#20357009)

Rather than throw technology at the cabs, I'd prefer if they made it a requirement that NY taxi drivers spoke English and knew their way around the city, like the London ones do [wikipedia.org] .

Lol privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20357071)

Yeah cabbies, don't worry. We're already tracking you and listening in on you through your cell phone.

Good for them (3, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | about 7 years ago | (#20357225)

Good for them. I hope they win. There really are more important things in life than squeezing the last nickel out of everybody. Basic human dignity is one of them. There's no dignity in having a boss or a government agency knowing exactly where you are every second you're at work. That's going too far.

You may have it backwards. (1)

Lethyos (408045) | about 7 years ago | (#20357385)

Perhaps is this to prevent drivers from squeezing every last nickel out of us. Especially in such a large city, visitors may have no idea what the most direct and therefore cheapest route is to their destination. A system that shows the path will give the consumer the opportunity to be informed about the service they are buying and agree to or protest it as appropriate.

Invasion of privacy? (1)

andy1307 (656570) | about 7 years ago | (#20357267)

How is this an invasion of their privacy? I read TFA and nothing in it says the government can track the cabs using the GPS receivers in real time. They're already turning in their route maps according to the conditions of their license.

transit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20357293)

as far as i can tell, a taxi strike won't affect my trains/feet/buses. let them strike for a decade.

Privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20357323)

Let us see here. They take your picture when you get in the cab. I would assume that is time and date stamped. Then, GPS information is recorded about your travels.

I thank you 7or your time (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20357491)

Traffic (2, Interesting)

MrLint (519792) | about 7 years ago | (#20357537)

An acquaintance of mine once regaled me of an anecdote of then the cabbies were on strike in NYC en masse. As it goes the traffic in manhattan was a dream, and that they should strike all the time.

'We never had ads in our dreams' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20357543)

Passengers can turn the monitors off after mandatory safety information has been displayed
Thats for now. In the near future, passengers will be allowed to turn the monitors off after the mandatory ads have been displayed.

All the tech will already be setup to force the passenger to watch videos. Whats to stop management from blasting ads at the passengers and keeping the extra money? The advertising industry finds its way into everything. It will show its face here too. You cannot turn the display off (at least, not at first), they can ID you by credit card, and GPS allows them to determine nearby stores. Sounds like the perfect setup for targeted ads.
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