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Privacy changes in store for FasTrak

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FasTrak users concerned with the government having too much access to their personal records will be bolstered by new safeguards set to take effect Jan. 1.

Drivers who register for FasTrak transponders, which allow motorists to bypass paying cash at toll plazas, must provide a variety of personal information, including a credit card number, e-mail address and phone number. The data, along with travel information recorded every time the vehicle passes a toll, are collected by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

While the MTC does not provide personal information to third-party groups, the organization is tightening up security protocols to comply with new state legislation.

Starting next year, the MTC will destroy personal information after a person’s FasTrak account has been inactive for four years and six months. The agency will work to better inform customers that their information is protected, scout for security breaches and ensure compliance with privacy regulations.

New policies will be in place by the new year, MTC spokesman John Goodwin said.

“We’ve always taken protecting privacy very seriously,” he said. “This makes the safeguards we already have in place more explicit.”

State Sen. Joe Simitian passed the privacy legislation early this year. He said he was motivated to respond to the government’s shortcomings in protecting personal information. In some cases, divorce lawyers used data gathered by FasTrak recordings to prove instances of infidelity.

The MTC plans to expand its privacy upgrades to public transit users registered with the agency. Clipper, the regional fare-payment card, also is managed by the MTC. Goodwin said Clipper users — who provide the same personal information as FasTrak customers — will be covered by the MTC’s new privacy policy. 

There are about 1 million FasTrak accounts in the Bay Area, according to the MTC.