Civil libertarians are concerned about law enforcement agencies having access to personal Opal card information.
The Opal card is designed to make traveling in NSW easier and more cost efficient, but according to the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, it also may give your information to the authorities without your knowledge. The card itself requires a name and address and tracks your trip as you go, allowing law enforcement agencies to see these details without a warrant.
Similar cards in Queensland and Victoria also offer the information to law enforcement agencies. This also includes agencies not traditionally identified as law enforcement such as the Taxation Office, Centrelink and local councils.
Without a warrant, these agencies can request access to personal information from databases linked to the card when investigating crimes including tax evasion, welfare fraud or even littering.
So far no law enforcement agency in NSW has requested any information, but in Queensland there have been almost 11,000 requests for Go Card smart card records. In Victoria there has been almost 300 requests for the interstate equivalent, myki card.
The Opal card allows law enforcement to access more than 300,000 NSW resident’s private information.
Police Association president Scott Weber said he didn’t see the fuss, saying social media was a better tracker for law enforcement.
“Probably the best way to chase someone up these days is through social media,” Mr Weber said.
“I think you can get more information off Google or Facebook than you’ll get off the Opal passes”.
The Newsroom asked Sydney commuters for their thoughts on the issue.
Dwayne Siniska, 19, from Blacktown, was concerned about his personal information falling into the wrong hands. “Yes, it’s a massive invasion of privacy allowing people to gain access to that kind of information,” he said.
“If the police can do it, who’s to say hackers can’t”.
Aleksey Dunaeff, 18, from Blacktown, thought the law enforcement’s access to his details through the Opal card was unjustified. “I think that it’s a big deal, because if the police need to access my personal information they need to give me legitimate and suitable reason as to why they need to,” he said.
“It is my personal information after all”.
But Mr Dunaeff had a different opinion about personal information on social media sites such as Facebook.
“I also think there is a grey area between having Facebook where your personal information is available for social interaction and using that information for police investigations,” he said.
Alana Zarkovic, 18, from Blacktown, found it to be majorly concerning. “I could be an innocent citizen or I could be a previous offender,” she said.
“I don’t want to be treated different on public transport and allow officers to have access to my information and schedule because of that.”
Transport NSW will roll-out unregistered Opal cards that require no personal information in the next few months, for those concerned with privacy and who prefer to pay in cash. – Brian Ennew
Top photo taken by Memu Conteh.