Home Technology Regulation NSW pensioner wins right to privacy on public transport

NSW pensioner wins right to privacy on public transport

A resident of NSW has won the right to be allowed not to register his details when using a seniors Opal card, a smartcard that is used for transport in the state.

Nigel Waters, a life member of the Australian Privacy Foundation and a former board member of the organisation, filed a case against Transport for NSW back in 2016.

Waters lodged an objection to his travel record being linked to his identity as he wished to be able to use public transport anonymously.

The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal agreed with Waters that the travel information was not reasonably necessary.

There are four categories of Opal cards sold in NSW:

  • An adult card for adults who pay full fare;
  • A child/youth card for children who pay half fare
  • A concession card for those entitled to a half-fare because they are tertiary students, unemployed, or one of a number of other concessional categories; and
  • Senior/pensioner card for seniors, aged and disability pensioners and some other categories, who pay $2.50 per day of use.

Transport for NSW requires all senior/pensioner card holders to register their cards.

Waters did not object to his having to demonstrate eligibility on application.

He was also willing to produce evidence of his eligibility for the pensioner card on demand or to verify periodically that he continues to be eligible to use the card.

Waters said: "This is a major win for privacy rights in NSW. It clearly raises the bar for all NSW Government agencies to apply ‘Privacy by Design’ principles to complex new data driven systems.”

APF vice-chairperson Kat Lane said: "The big question is now what Transport for NSW will do? Will they do the right thing and finally recognise the human rights of NSW residents to use public transport anonymously?”

The chairperson of APF, David Vaile, said: "You shouldn’t have to put up with being potentially spied on as you travel just because you verify your eligibility for a concession."

Consulting firm Salinger Privacy has a detailed rundown of the verdict here.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.