Nashville officials are demanding scooter companies turn over GPS and route information that would allow the government to track people who ride scooters in real-time.
Scooter companies can already track their customers’ movements, but officials at the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee say government officials ought not to have the same privilege.
Members of the City’s Transportation Licensing Commission are the ones who want the real-time GPS data, according to a letter Beacon President Justin Owen sent Mayor John Cooper this week.
Beacon Vice President Stephanie Whitt elaborated on Owen’s letter in a call with The Tennessee Star Friday.
“The city has put out an RFP saying that ‘In order to operate a scooter company in Nashville you have to apply, and we’re only going to allow so many scooter companies to operate.’ As part of that application you have to agree as a company to give over that information,” Whitt said.
“We found that alarming because (with) real-time data given over to the city, they don’t have the capability to maintain that privacy and we also find it alarming that they would want that information. Usually if there is some crime that has happened or some incident that has occurred (then) they would have to go through a police investigation or court order in order to get that information from, say, Uber, if there was an incident in a ride. Uber does not just give all of that information over to the company, no matter if there was no incident or not.”
No one at Cooper’s office responded to The Star’s requests for comment this week.
In his letter, Owen told Cooper that the city’s proposal is “unconstitutionally invasive.”
“With growing regularity, even the most well-equipped private companies from Sony to Equifax have still faced hacks. The City has no institutional knowledge when it comes to cybersecurity of this magnitude,” Owen wrote.
“If done with scooter data, Nashvillians could see their most intimate data dumped into the public sphere,” he added. “Nashville should not open itself up to the massive responsibility and liability that will follow the accumulation of this data.”
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Lime S Scooter” by Baldesteinemanuel326. CC BY-SA 4.0.