A state lawmaker wants to restrict who can access I-Pass information on drivers who use the pass on the Illinois Tollway.
Last year, WBEZ reported that the Illinois Tollway is regularly subpoenaed by law enforcement agencies and even divorce attorneys for an individual customer’s I-Pass data.
In one troubling instance, the Tollway turned over a customer’s travel information, cell phone number, email address and vehicle information to her ex-boyfriend whom she felt was stalking her. The woman had a restraining order against the man at the time he was able to obtain her personal information by filing a subpoena to the Illinois Tollway for her I-Pass records. The practice raised concerns from privacy advocates.
State Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, recently introduced a bill that would prohibit the Tollway from releasing such information via subpoena in civil cases — whether it’s for use in a divorce case, a car accident lawsuit or to potentially stalk someone. McDermed’s bill would also require law enforcement to first obtain a warrant from a judge before asking the Tollway to release someone’s I-Pass records.
McDermed said she expects some pushback to her proposal once the legislative session gets into full swing this year, but she wanted to get the ball rolling to address the privacy issues that the WBEZ report brought to light.
“I think that we need to tee the issue up because right now it’s too loose,” McDermed said.
The WBEZ report also prompted calls for action from Illinois Tollway Director José Alvarez and Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker.
“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.
One state that already addresses the accessibility of someone’s movements on a toll road is California, where state law requires police to get a warrant. Law enforcement must also notify the person within five days that their data has been shared, unless the warrant requests secrecy. Former Democratic California State Sen. Joe Simitian, who led the passage of that law, argued that one way to restrict the accessibility of tollway transponder data — particularly in civil matters — is to require tollways to regularly destroy the data after a few years.
“If you have [the data] then it can be misused,” he said.
But Simitian, who’s now the county board president in Santa Clara County, said all states should develop policies about how toll customers’ data is released.
“I understand the first business of a toll collection agency is to collect tolls,” Simitian said. “But we’ve gotta expect these organizations, if they’re gonna collect this data, to be sensitive to their responsibilities in terms of privacy and due process even as they’re listening to the clink clink clink of the coins coming in. Or the click click click of the credit cards, whatever it may be these days.”
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.