today in lowjacking news

Speedpass-enabled Timex Watch Now Available Online!

"Are you the type of person who likes to be tracked, everywhere you go, any time? Are you the first on your block to have the latest gadget? Well, we have just the product for you -- the NEW SPEEDPASS-ENABLED TIMEX WATCH. Order yours today!"

"Your Speedpass-enabled Timex Watch is the fastest and easiest way to submit to 24/7 tracking of all your travels. No reaching for your papers, or fumbling with change. The new watch looks and functions just like a regular watch. However, inside the watchband is a miniature Speedpass radio frequency transponder that allows customers to instantly be monitored when they pass within range of any freeway in California!"

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12 Responses:

  1. zonereyrie says:

    Um, isn't the RF used in the Mobil/Exxon 'SpeedPass' more like the RF badges to get into many office buildings? I.e. very low range? And not the same as the EasyPass/FastLane/whatever auto-toll paying systems for cars?

    • jwz says:

      My understanding is that those are all just various forms of the same RFID tech, and their range is determined by how powerful the reader/transmitter is. From what I've read, it sounds like jacking up the reception range on any of them is a Small Matter of Hacking.

  2. I've always thought the SpeedPass thing was dumb (it takes me minimally more time just to use a regular credit card and, hey, look it works in other gas stations too... and I can even buy things that aren't gas with it!), but I'm quite happy using the east coast's EZPass system for toll roads.

    It saves a massive amount of time on my daily commute (no, really, haves about twenty minutes off of what is now a forty-five minute drive to simply not have to wait in line at the tolls), and means if I'm driving to (say) NYC, I can take the 45 MPH EZPass lanes on my way to the NJ turnpuke.

    So you want to know what time I go to and come from work every day? Fine, have fun. Want to monitor me in transit so that you can produce
    a website with up-to-the-moment depictions of the speed on the routes I regularly take? That's great, now I know when not to jump on I-476. Thanks!

    If you try to issue me a speeding ticket on it? Whoops, the system must have been malfunctioning. I mean, look at all these documented times when it missed reading my tag entirely. Is it actually calibrated to an atomic clock? How frequently, and did it update during my drive? Do you have it certified for speed measurement? Cops will never use this, because it would never hold up in court.

    And if I'm going to do something where I don't want my driving tracked, I simply won't take the thing along. Or I'll dump it in a metallic static free bag (like it came in, but also like every computer component I've ever bought comes in), which shields the signal completely. If I'm going to make a habit of not wanting to be tracked, I'll keep it in that bag until the last fifteen feet before the toll both.

    There's really no privacy invasion to be seen here, dude. Move along.

    • All that said, what your post was actually about is totally lame, and really would be lowjacking yourself. Because dropping your watch in a static-free bag when you don't want to be tracked would suck ass. (Same goes for your car keys, the existing mode for the SpeedPass BS.)

      I maintain, though, that EZPass and its ilk is really not a threat under existing technological and legal conditions.

      PS, I meant "shaves about twenty minutes", not "haves". Duh.

    • jwz says:

      So you want to know what time I go to and come from work every day? Fine, have fun.

      This is exactly the same argument as, "why should I use encryption? I have nothing to hide."

      The reason is that it's nobody's damned business but your own. Technologies like this are frightening because of the asymmetric flow of information: some quasi-government agency has high resolution location information about some vast number of people, most of whom are completely ignorant of that fact, and all we have to protect abuses of that system is their word?

      Maybe that doesn't make you nervous, but, well, then you're mad. If this (and other RFID-based technology) gets widely deployed (and it may, since it will be very convenient, and there will be undeniable good side-effects of it) then the potential for abuse will be enormous.

      • volkris says:

        Trying to retain your privacy is really a loosing fight. Ellison or whomever said it was pretty right on with "You have no privacy, get over it."

        But you're right, the problem here is the asymmetry.

        The strategy moving forward should be one of demanding accountability of the Watchers, expanding the watching until nobody, not the richest, most powerful governmental figure, can watch without being watched himself. Instead people are spending their time working against such movement, trying to fight against every expansion of monitoring. Which only insures that only the rich and powerful will be watching the monitors.

        Brinn had it right: the day of universal monitoring is pretty near and pretty unavoidable. The only decision is who will be doing the monitoring, the people or the powerful.

      • Using EZPass doesn't make me nervous because it was a very carefully considered decision. I mean, they have my credit card number and automatically refill my account when I dip below $10 available too; also part of the considered decision.

        I've got no problem with EZPass because I asked for it. I don't have much respect for people who get one of those watches, because it's stupid, but they're also asking for it.

        I've got a major problem with this technology being forced on me without my knowledge. I'm fine if clothing (or whatever) manufacturers want to start including RFIDs in their product... as long as that product is clearly labeled as containing one.

        I understand your concern, but I really don't think that this is an inherently evil technology.

        As far as it being my business what time I go through the toll gates, it really isn't my business alone. That's a public road that's maintained by the revenues of the tolls. And even if they started watching EZPass tags on non-toll roads, those are still paid for by tax dollars. Recording usage information so that they can maintain the roads appropriately is just good administration. I've got no problem with that. I may have a problem with policies about usage of the data (or lack of usage; there're some roads that really need help where this data is recorded but then not properly acted upon), but I really view that as an orthogonal policy issue.

        • jwz says:

          I've got a major problem with this technology being forced on me without my knowledge.

          And this is why I'm more concerned about RFID tags in clothing, etc. than about an opt-in thing like EZpass. However, people who signed up for EZpass were told that it was for toll gates. Now it turns out that A) it's being used for more than that, and B) it can be used for all kinds of things: wait for the fun to begin the first time the traffic-monitoring logs are subpoenaed to find someone's location at some particular time. Do you think the implications of this are obvious to most people? I don't.

          I really don't think that this is an inherently evil technology.

          Very few technologies are inherently evil. They're just tools. This one is a tool that affects a large number of people and is controlled by a small number. That situation is not inherently evil, but it is inherently dangerous.

          As far as it being my business what time I go through the toll gates, it really isn't my business alone. That's a public road that's maintained by the revenues of the tolls.

          For those purposes, they don't need individually-identifiable data. If the system were guarenteed to be anonymous, I wouldn't have a problem with it. But by "guarenteed" I mean "by the technology", not "by some promise on a piece of paper that is easily ignored."

          • Yeah, turns out we don't really disagree anywhere near so much as I'm making out, just fine points along the same area of the spectrum. (My initial response was because, hey, I get convenience out of my EZPass, and I wouldn't want to see the technology summarily banned, since I dig that convenience.)

            I'm not sure, though, that this is a situation where guarantees from the technology enough will ever be viable. I mean, the cat's out of the bag, kind of like public access to strong crypto. We can fight for our overlords to use it responsibly, but we can't so much fight for its non-existence.

  3. cetan says:

    Speedpass also works at McDonalds (at least here in IL) so while your car gets refined oils, your body can get the same!

  4. vxo says:

    For quite a while (in fact, it originated in Miami... go Miami!) there's been a scam going on among valet parking attendants... they'll steal someone's Speedpass off their keychain, and replace it with a previously used one... then use that person's Speedpass at Mobil stations to buy their gas and stuff (and probably some food at McD's too). The person whose speedpass was stolen may never realize what happened unless the one they replaced it with is dead...

    Meanwhile, it's quite unfortunate that they chose Timex watches for this... they should have gone with Casio, at least. I have never had a Timex watch last for more than about two months. The last one was a neat Ironman Triathlon, "water resistant to 100 meters", which got swamped.... in a heavy rain.

  5. scosol says:

    "Are you the type of person who likes to be tracked, everywhere you go, any time?"

    Being that most people carry around cell phones these days (GPS or no GPS)- triangulation of a phone's signal from different cell towers is easy.
    There's even a site in the UK where you can get physical location data for any phone over there; all for the low fee of $29.95 per month: