Corporations will go to incredible lengths to dream up new ways to convince the public to accept government spying.
Take the Arlington Texas Department of Transportation’s (DOT) latest idea for example.
The Texas DOT is getting rid of HOV lane discounts and replacing them with customer rewards. Motorists are being forced to download an intrusive new “VeriRide” app that takes government snooping to a whole new level.
A recent article in the Dallas News titled “HOV rewards to replace discounts on Dallas Fort-Wort tolled lanes” is basically a rewards program for government spying.
How is this a rewards program for government spying?
The article claims that the “Council of Governments” plans to spend $24 million to replace HOV discounts with a rewards program.
The new rewards program will eliminate that upfront discount. Instead, drivers will receive the same savings in the form of an e-credit, Visa prepaid cards, cash or direct deposit.
Where have I heard this before? Can someone say Hertz’s airport facial recognition rewards program?
Who is the Council of Governments?
The Council of Governments (COG) according to Wikipedia “are regional governing and/or coordinating bodies that exist throughout the United States. COGs are normally controlled by their member local governments.”
Think of COGs as local units of government for state and federal governments with broad powers or as the North Central Texas COG puts it, “their purpose is to strengthen both the individual and collective power of local governments.”
How does VeriRide track drivers and passengers?
According to Carma’s “What We Do” webpage, “VeriRide provides real-time passenger information and smart ticketing systems.” And Carma’s “Toll Roads Discount” webpage reveals that drivers and passengers are monitored continuously.
VeriRide’s continuous monitoring and post trip analysis insures 99% accuracy.
Carma’s app does much more than provide real-time driver and passenger information to DOTs.
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If passengers do not have a smartphone, VeriRide will essentially turn your vehicle into a rolling surveillance platform.
According to Go Carma’s “News” webpage, VeriRide transmits your personal information directly to the DOT by turning your car into a Bluetooth beacon.
Our smartphone app automatically verifies your occupancy in a vehicle. It does this by using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) communications to detect its proximity to a small in-car device – a Car Beacon – that simply transmits a Bluetooth identifier.
The Dallas News article warns that COGs plan to use VeriRide to track pedestrians, commuters, bicyclists and much more.
While the immediate change is to existing tolled lanes, the new technology could be extended to future roads and potentially be used to reward other driving behaviors. Officials believe they could one day provide rewards for those who walk or bike or use public transit, for instance, in lieu of a car. Or they could give benefits for taking an alternate route to ease congestion. And they say a company could be rewarded for shifting work schedules and keeping traffic off roads at rush hour.
Before COGs can expand their rewards program nationally they have to “address concerns about user privacy and exposure to location-based geo-target marketing.”
Maybe COGs should use Bloomberg’s role-playing workshops to dream up new ways to address VeriRide’s disturbing privacy issues.
Toyota claims VeriRide is a great networking tool
According to an article in Dallas Innovates, Toyota Motor North America recently partnered with Carma to track carpoolers.
The pilot program recorded more than 12,000 verified-occupancy trips and 200,000 shared miles over the course of the year.
Toyota claims VeriRide is a great networking tool. You cannot make this s**t up.
Toyota Market Planning Strategist Kay Frano summed it up this way:
It’s been really great for networking. I have met so many new people that work in different departments I would never have met if it wasn’t for this car sharing program.
If anyone thinks that a government-funded rewards program is a great networking tool, I have a famous bridge in a desert I would like to sell you.
This story sums up government surveillance in a nutshell. Offer people customer rewards and specious claims about networking and Americans will flock to them.