Senator Lesser aims to protect privacy of drivers

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (WWLP) – Longmeadow State Senator Eric Lesser has filed a bill requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing data collected on drivers on the Mass Pike.

Senate Bill 161 was originally filed in 2016 following the installation of all-electronic tolls along the Mass Pike.

The tolls take snapshots of drivers’ license plates at various points along the Pike, collecting the speed and location of vehicles along with date and time stamps.

Senator Lesser believes this information could allow the state to track people.

“Look, the electronic tolling has been great in so many ways, I use it almost every day, it’s convenient it’s fast, but it does raise questions about electronic surveillance,” Senator Lesser said. “I think we’re living in a time where privacy is really in the front and center and we need to make sure there are laws on the books to protect that privacy.”

There are 16 toll gantries along the Mass Pike, giving law enforcement the ability to track how long it takes for drivers to get from one to the other.

Senator Lesser’s bill would allow law enforcement to use that information if there was a threat to life or public safety emergency but he says the main reason he filed the bill was to protect drivers’ privacy so that the state cannot track drivers everywhere they go by accessing the e-tolling data.

Right now, MassDOT regulations say they will not use the tolling data for other purposes, but that is only in MassDOT regulations, which could be changed with a new governor or a new head of MassDOT.

Sen. Lesser believes this should be codified in state law so that drivers’ information is protected and so that the state cannot track drivers wherever they go while using the Mass Pike.

Many public officials joined Senator Lesser to support this bill and provide proper legal safeguards before drivers’ privacy rights are violated.

The Committee didn’t vote on the bill Monday, but if it receives a favorable review it could go up for a full vote on the House floor before the end of the legislative session.

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