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London public transport tap-cash plans will be 'entirely safe'

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Fraudsters will not be able to extract confidential information from a person's contactless bank card or other compatible technology as the type of data held on such cards will be restricted, Will Judge, head of future ticketing at Transport for London (TfL) has said.

Giving evidence to the London assembly transport committee about TfL's plans to introduce contactless payment to London's transport network, he answered yes when asked by a member of the committee whether the system was "100 per cent safe" against "invisible pick pocketing".

"The first thing to note is that not all the information about a customer's account is recorded on the bank card itself. So, for example, the information that is recorded within the chip of the card or the magnetic stripe that many cards carry, or can be transmitted electromagnetically when the card is used for a transaction, doesn't include names and addresses information of that nature, so those are held by bank themselves not on the card itself," said Judge. "The set of information you can get from card itself is restricted and is not all of your personal data."

He said that he understood the fear that some customers may have about someone being able to manipulate a person's contactless card so they could access their account, but he said that he was confident that this would not happen. "You cannot extract enough information from a card to spend someone else's money," he stressed.

Shashi Verma, director of fares and ticketing at TfL, added that the potential for fraud was incredibly low because of the £15 limit that will be imposed on the card for individual transactions. "It has been thought about and has been rigorously tested," he said in his evidence to the committee.

TfL announced plans in October last year to introduce contactless technology, the first phase of which will be implemented next spring on buses. The project will give passengers with contactless-enabled Eurocard, Mastercard or Visa cards the ability to pay using existing Oyster card readers. This payment option will be extended to the tube, London Overground, Docklands Light Railway, tram and National Rail services in London later in 2012.

Judge also stressed that banks will not have access to people's travel data, which will be retained by TfL as is currently the case with the Oyster card, and will receive nothing other than transaction information. Similarly speaking about the concern about TfL holding additional financial information about customers, Verma said: "TfL never sells personal data, we don't share or sell personal data unless required by law."

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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