S.T.O.P. Releases ‘OMNY Surveillance Oh My’ Report on MTA Privacy Threats

For Immediate Release

S.T.O.P. Releases ‘OMNY Surveillance Oh My’ Report on MTA Privacy Threats
[NEW YORK, NY, 10/1/2019] -- Today, the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.), a New York-based privacy group, released their “OMNY Surveillance Oh My” report detailing the privacy threat posed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA’s) One Metro New York (OMNY) payment system. The report notes that OMNY poses a particular threat to undocumented New Yorkers, collecting location information that can be exploited by law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
SEE: Report Text
“The MTA fare is high enough; it shouldn’t also cost us our privacy,” said Surveillance Technology Oversight Project Executive Director Albert Cahn, Esq. “The MTA must push pause on OMNY until privacy protections are in place to ensure our transit system doesn’t become a tracking system. The current OMNY privacy policy fails to protect riders from having our travel habits perpetually tracked by the NYPD or even federal agencies like ICE.  Even the choice of RFID technology raises concerns, following widespread reports that the technology has been hacked in other cities.”
OMNY uses insecure Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) transceivers in phones, smart devices, and credit and debit cards to track and charge riders each time they enter the MTA system.  Similar technologies were previously hacked in other cities, some of which even use the same vendor at the MTA: Cubic Transportation Systems.
SEE: TfL pulls Oyster system offline after hackers trespass into user accounts
Oyster hackers roam London for free
What's the risk of 'electronic pickpocketing' for Ventra cards? https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2013-12-02-ct-getting-around-met-1125-20131202-story.html
Among the critical concerns S.T.O.P. highlights: 
  • OMNY undermines sanctuary cities.  OMNY creates a new mechanism for governments to collect information on undocumented New Yorkers, with no limitations on potential sharing with law enforcement, including even ICE.
  • OMNY limits people's ability to protect their own privacy Once the MetroCard is phased out in 2023, it’s unclear how New Yorkers will be able to use cash for MTA travel. The MTA has failed to confirm how many OMNY cash kiosks will be created, where they will be located, and how much of a surcharge New Yorkers will pay for using this privacy-protective option.
  • OMNY poses threats of outside hacking. OMNY’s reliance on NFC creates a significant opportunity for hackers, just as it has in London, Chicago, and other jurisdictions.
  • Warrantless searches may undermine the justice system. Riders may not be notified that their personal information has been shared with law enforcement - and without a warrant. This information could be used to track riders’ participation in lawful political protest and chill core Constitutional rights.
The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project is a non-profit advocacy organization and legal services provider hosted by the Urban Justice Center. S.T.O.P. litigates and advocates for privacy, fighting excessive local and state-level surveillance. Our work highlights the discriminatory impact of surveillance on Muslim Americans, immigrants, and communities of color.
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CONTACT: STOP Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn; ;
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