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Who wants a smart meter to track'n'tax your car? Hello, Israel

Avoid the rush hour, avoid higher rates. Oh and something about privacy

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Israel is drafting a tender for smart meters to be mandated in every vehicle in the country, tracking drivers to allow for differential taxation, but only once the privacy issues have been resolved.

The plan is to vary vehicle tax based on usage, so drivers who don't drive during peak times, or stay out of city centres, get discounted road tax, but the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transport are adamant that any solution will have to protect the privacy of drivers who might not want every journey recorded and logged forever.

"Without a full solution to the privacy problem, we cannot even think about implementing the new tax method," a source in the transportation department told local business site Globes. "We want a system which will not notify Big Brother about where a vehicle is located, but in which the device will make the calculations, and allow the car owner to delete data after use."

It's an alarmingly enlightened viewpoint, and not one that our Big-Data-Cloud-Analysis corporations would approve, but the rational approach doesn't stop there - the idea isn't just to tax users by the mile, as most systems would, but to reward them for reducing their existing mileage as demonstrated by the trial scheme which launched last month.

That scheme, called Going Green, will monitor 1,200 drivers over two years, and pay them up to 25 shekels (about a fiver) for every journey they don't take. The first six months are used to work out "normal" driving, after which the volunteer can receive to a maximum of around a £1,000 over 18 months, calculated on the journeys they didn't take, where they didn't go, and the time at which they didn't go there.

The formula is necessarily complicated, but laid out in full (in Hebrew) on the sign-up site. Globes reckons several hundred volunteers have already put their names down despite the privacy issues not yet being addressed, but the forthcoming tender will require a privacy-securing solution.

The UK system of recording every numberplate which enters the city centre is much easier and has the added benefit of feeding an enormous database of our movements, and as long as you've nothing to hide then presumably you have nothing to fear. We're told this is the way a congestion charge is run, so it will be interesting to see if the Israelis can come up with a better solution, and if such a thing would ever be acceptable to our own government. ®

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