From Boing Boing:
Many times, intrusions into privacy like this are excused on the basis that they offer discounts in exchange for your personal information. This is true with the Oyster card, too: a single ride on the tube costs £3 now if you use a paper ticket, but with an Oyster card the journey is as little as £1.30. The thing is, before they ramped up Oyster card use on January 1, the cost of a paper single was also as little as £1.10 — in other words, they nearly tripled the cost of an anonymous journey and then told everyone that you got a great discount if you used the privacy-surrendering means.
They do this in Ottawa, too, albeit with paper passes and not with RFID technology. The RFID stuff is kind of neat, and I suppose that some malicious administrator could use it to track specific people, but if the description in the article is correct, it wouldn’t be terribly useful as the tools of oppressive states go: Cory says “With one of these, you could zap your card when it runs out of stored money and trade it for a new one that will have a different serial number and consequently not be associatable with your previous card”, but who cares if it’s associated with your other card? What matters is, is that card associated with me, somewhere other than my pocket. Either the card points at you, or it doesn’t – the new card, when you get it, will either point at you again, or it won’t.
The reason that there’s such a dramatic difference between cash fares and tickets or passes is not because the system wants you to give up your privacy – it’s because the system wants you to not pay cash. For individuals, carrying cash is not a huge problem – it’s a few bills in the wallet, and a handful of coins in our pocket. If the coin situation gets unwieldy, any merchant will gladly change it into a five or ten dollar bill.
For your local transit authorites, not so much; our bus service has to shift, count, deposit and just generally cope with several tons of change every day, a process that’s difficult, expensive and not exactly, as you might imagine, airtight or precise. And Ottawa isn’t nearly as big a city as London. Pricing tickets well below the cost of cash fare can mean significant economies for the transit system, and with a little foresight your taxpayer citizen pays a much cheaper fare.
There are privacy implications in this stuff, to be sure, but to believe that dog-tagging the citizenry is the prime motive for all these things is, well, wrong.