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Oz states count cars using Bluetooth

Traffic studies bring out tinfoil hats

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The government of Australia's Capital Territory (ACT) has issued a statement about the use of Bluetooth-sniffing technology for traffic studies.

The issue arose as the result of grassroots activism from Canberra-centric news service The-RiotACT, which has its take on events here.

RiotACT considers the Bluetooth collection to be analogous to Google's StreetView data slurp in which the Chocolate Factory decided that open WiFi access points were fair game for data sniffs. The organisation goes so far as to accuse the ACT government's Territory and Municipal Services – the agency in charge of roads and therefore running the traffic studies – of breaching Australia's Telecommunications Interception Act.

TAMS has responded that its activities are nothing nefarious and that it doesn't collect “personally identifiable” information. In this brief statement, the agency says Bluetooth provides a useful gauge of travel times and route decisions. The agency says the technology is in use “around Australia”, although El Reg was only able to document this for NSW.

While RiotACT's reaction seems overblown, The Register wonders whether recent research into how easily “anonymous” movement data can be tied to an individual would have privacy implications in this setting.

Bluetooth traffic technology doesn't attempt to capture communication data from passing devices, but merely records a “signature” (most probably the device ID, MAC address or name offered over the link) as a car enters and leaves the footprint of the measuring device. ®

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