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Presto bringing big ideas – and maybe free coffee – to TTC riders

Presto bringing big ideas – and maybe free coffee – to TTC riders:

Privacy concerns

While few can argue with the prospect of a less-cramped streetcar, one Toronto-based privacy advocate has some concerns about the TTC tracking his trips.

“The use of aggregate rider data can be really helpful in terms of figuring out how to improve transit,” said Christopher Parsons, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.

“But the question is what minimal amount of data is necessary to collect for that planning, and is there a way to authenticate Presto cards that maximally protects individuals’ privacy?”

A spokesperson for Metrolinx told Metro that riders have the option of using Presto cards even if they haven’t registered any of their personal information.

That’s good, Parsons said, but it may not be enough.

“If you’re looking at large datasets, you can start picking out individuals based on just one or two other data points,” he said.

Ultimately, any technology like Presto involves some measure of surveillance, and Parsons says he believes it will be up to riders to decide whether the benefits of the card outweigh any concerns.

“That’s a choice Torontonians will have to make,” he said.