I have had to stand in a busy road all day, stopping cars to gain origin and destination data for a transportation computer model, and I understand why state and local transportation planners in Maine want the Streetlight system (April 1). But it comes at a potentially very high price, especially if linked to other software programs that utilize artificial intelligence, facial recognition software and other state data sets, such as driver licenses, license plates, tax records and toll station information.

In my experience, almost no one understands that everything on their cellphone, including texts, emails, photographs, a record of where they have traveled and calls they have placed, is collected by most of the phone applications they use. I wish more parents understood this about not only their cellphones, but also their children’s phones. This data is then sold, with virtually no restrictions. That is what allows companies to provide their costly programs for “free,” or for far less than it costs to create and maintain.

At present the head of the Maine Turnpike Authority (Peter Mills) has neither the technical means nor the authority to know how over 25 different entities are using this data, no matter how good his intentions. As your recent editorial suggests (Our View, April 2), Maine needs strong digital privacy laws and regulations, and an effective system to enforce privacy standards and impose significant consequences for violating those standards. The Streetlight system is just the tip of a very large, powerful and pervasive iceberg that will be irresistible to politicians, law enforcement, administrators, commercial interests, scam artists, hackers and worse.

A good starting point might be to require anyone given access to this data to sign a clear, concise data privacy agreement. Digital privacy training for state employees might also help.

Peter Ryner


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