Another Illinois Lawmaker Wants Ban On Divorce Lawyers Getting I-Pass Data

Illinois Tollway
The Illinois Tollway reports 6.8 million I-Pass transponders have been issued. Those transponders — which track tollway customers' movements — are regularly subpoenaed by law enforcement and divorce attorneys, raising concerns among privacy advocates. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Illinois Tollway
The Illinois Tollway reports 6.8 million I-Pass transponders have been issued. Those transponders — which track tollway customers' movements — are regularly subpoenaed by law enforcement and divorce attorneys, raising concerns among privacy advocates. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Another Illinois Lawmaker Wants Ban On Divorce Lawyers Getting I-Pass Data

Another Illinois lawmaker wants to see more privacy safeguards in place to protect the movements and data of people who use I-Pass transponders on the state’s tollways.

State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, has introduced a bill that would require law enforcement to get a warrant to see someone’s I-Pass records. It would also ban the use of I-Pass data from being accessible in civil cases, such as divorces.

“We need to be a lot better about privacy,” Sosnowski said.

His proposal comes after WBEZ reported last fall that the Tollway regularly releases its own customers’ personal movements and I-Pass account information to law enforcement, divorce attorneys and anyone else who can get a court-enforced request for information, called a subpoena.

In a particularly troubling instance, the Tollway released one customer’s I-Pass data to someone she felt was stalking her.

Through an open records request, WBEZ obtained 117 subpoena requests that were made to the Tollway over a 14-month timeframe. The requests came from local police departments, federal prosecutors and even private divorce attorneys looking to track what their clients’ exes were up to.

And privacy changes to I-Pass could have a broad impact: the Illinois Tollway reports it has issued 6.8 million I-Pass transponders, and 90% of all toll transactions are electronic.

At the time WBEZ published its investigation, Sosnowski said he expected the state legislature to further investigate how easily I-Pass data is obtained. He led the 2013 passage of a bill that banned the secret use of GPS tracking devices on vehicles.

Now, Sosnowski said his proposal is meant to force law enforcement to meet a higher threshold before using I-Pass location data to try and track a suspect’s Tollway movements.

State Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, also has introduced an identical bill.

The Illinois Tollway has not responded to requests for comment on either legislator’s proposal. Illinois Tollway Executive Director José Alvarez has said previously that he’s “very open and interested in working with lawmakers,” and he vowed to examine I-Pass privacy issues.But Sosnowski said he hadn’t heard anything from the Tollway on the issue.

“I’m really surprised that the Tollway hasn’t come forward with their own proposal to address this,” he told WBEZ. “I think this is definitely a problem and when we see other states presenting solutions to that, you know, there’s good models out there. So we’d expect the Tollway to take the lead on this, but if not we’re gonna hold their feet to the fire.”

Last year, Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker also called for changes in state law.

“Gov. Pritzker is committed to protecting residents across the state and looks forward to working with the General Assembly, Illinois Tollway, legal experts and advocates to revise the current law to protect Illinoisans’ privacy and safety,” a Pritzker spokeswoman wrote last year.

Tony Arnold covers Illinois state politics and government for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.