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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Big Brother has just a few questions

A concerned reader writes:

I got a survey in the mail today; didn't look like much out of the ordinary, except that it was mailed to my house after a traffic cam recorded my car crossing the I-5 Columbia River Bridge on Saturday, April 18.

They already know some of the answers, so they are playing dumb when they ask me which of eight counties I reside in. There are a total of nine questions about my habits crossing the Columbia.

Question 7 is typical: Including this trip, how many times on Saturday, April 18 did you cross the (check one) I-5 Bridge; I-205 Bridge

I am neither naive nor paranoid, and I don't mind taking surveys, but I do find it unsettling to be under surveillance.

Comments (26)

I'm very thankful for this sort of surveillance. Using the information on the card I was able to find out my wife is having an affair.

Spot on, reader. This is an outrage. For those that dismissed minor intrusions because they were not affected, this is the result. Whether red light cams of intrusive x-ray searches at the airports, our right have suffered. Our lives have changed as a reactionary result of terrorism threats. Intrusive surveillance should be deemed unacceptable. And, which government agency authorized this survey? Portland, leading the way. Nice job.

I just got that same survey. Evidently I too drove northbound across the Columbia on Saturday, April 18. I have no idea why I was on the freeway. Probably because 90% of my life is south of the river.

Why are they asking about that particular day? One of the biggest undiscussed issues in this whole "discussion" we're having is the amount of time spent stuck in northbound traffic on weekends. There's no rush hour. No UPS trucks or local deliveries. And traffic isn't choked down with to two lanes by the HOV silliness. Yet I would say about half the time on weekends, there's a significant delay on I-5 north. This is how they probably got my plate. I was literally a sitting target.

I was looking forward to filling the survey out, but not now.

The innocent have nothing to fear.

you are in public space and you elected to be there , privacy begins in your private space.

Dispel yourselves of the delusion that your travels about town are anonymous. You are driving (hopefully) a registered vehicle that bears a license number/identity code. Anybody can identify you. If you want to be anonymous, ride a bicycle.

you are in public space and you elected to be there , privacy begins in your private space.

Sorry. There is no privacy in your "private space" either.

Wait 'til they're doing this on all roads, all the time, "for tax purposes."

"If you want to be anonymous, ride a bicycle..."


In a few years, this type of survey will be completely unnecessary. By then, the corporations that run our lives will be well-enough synced up to KNOW the answers to these silly questions and many, many more pieces of information about us all. (We could ask THEM for the answers to all of these questions, as in, where was I at such time and date?)

You see, they will know how many times you crossed the river down to the exact moment of your crossings. They will know what time you left your house, where and when you stopped for gas or groceries, what you bought, how much you paid and what debit card you used.

If you had a companion, they will know who was with you by tracking the cell phone pings. If you or they make any calls, complete recordings of those calls (are now and) will be collected in a gigantic database.

Everyone in the society will be constantly tracked and watched.

But, hey, this is America. There could never be an Orwellian police state in the US, right? If you are innocent, you have nothing to worry about, for now.

It truly does make one consider dropping the cell phone, paying all expenses with cash, and ditching the car to escape this madness as much as possible.

That being said, I will be driving across the Columbia River bridge tonight about 6:15. I live in Washington County and the purpose of my trip will be dinner with friends in the Felida area of Vancouver.

you are in public space and you elected to be there , privacy begins in your private space.

define "private space" and "public space".

The innocent have nothing to fear.

Tell that to James Chasse. Wait, he's dead.

Dispel yourselves of the delusion that your travels about town are anonymous.

I'd add "dispel yourselves of the notion that your home, and your activities at home and on the Internet, are private".

a year or so ago, a tax assessor come to the door while I was gone. that evening, neighbors described how they'd walked around in the yard, peeked in basement windows and in first floor windows, took photos through the windows, then finally left a business card in the door.

this past year, a Census worker came by doing a voluntary survey that would take "just 20 minutes". I said no thanks. they started asking questions anyway: "are you employed? how many people live here?" I told them again, gently, I didn't want to do the survey.

they returned on five separate occasions over a year. the last two times, I told them they were creeping me out, that I was ready to call the police--and that since it was voluntary and I didn't want to sit down with them and their laptop in my house and give them all my personal information, they'd better not return.

anybody else had those experiences?

Automatic license plate reader technology:

Get used to it Portland:

Now that the Portland police are aquiring the equipment to record where and when everyone travels by car throughout the city, I'm more inclined to travel by bike. Of course it's only a matter of time untill they add face recognition as well.

And bike licensing.

Meh. They've had this technology on the east coast for like 15 years. It's called EZ Pass.

Not quite the same. You sign up for EZ Pass.

I have noticed the cams whenever I have crossed the Interstate Bridge over the past few months. I assumed the cams were there to monitor traffic for some reason related to traffic flow or to bridge span lifts.

Who is doing the survey? The State of Oregon has limited access to our DMV records to protect our privacy. I'd like to think that just driving in public does not allow any person or organization to use our license plates to obtain our personal information just to send out a traffic survey.

[Portland Native - I had the same experience you did about five years ago with the American Community Survey worker. She stalked me even after I told her outright I did not want to "volunteer" answers to her questions. I tried to talk to her supervisor, but was not able to reach him by telephone. You might have better luck.]

Answering my own question "Columbia River Crossing" is a project co-sponsored by ODOT and WSDOT.

According to CRC's website, the field surveys were sent to people who crossed the Columbia River on I-5 and I-205 during daylight hours on March 10 and April 18.


So there are cams on the Glenn Jackson Bridge as well.

Your inbound trip to the Men's Room near the Mayor's Office in Portland City Hall was recorded as part of a survey on May 26th.

1) Are you a resident of ?(circle one):

Portland Youth Hostel
Vancouver Youth Hostel

2) What was the purpose of your inbound trip to the Men's Room near the Mayor's Office in Portland City Hall on May 26th?
(circle all that apply)

Sex with Mayor
Sex with other City Employee
Sex with Non-City Employee
Observation of Sex with Mayor
Observation of Sex w/other City Employee
Observation of Sex w/non-City Employee
Graffiti Art
Evaluation of Design
Washup after any of above

(continued on reverse)

If they can read and record the license numbers on all cars crossing on both bridges, the cams are there for much more than to monitor traffic flow.

Washington state, for instance, has for years had a keen interest in Oregon plates going to Washington at night and going to Oregon in the mornings.

E-ZPass on the east coast does not involve cameras recording your license number. It consists of scanning a tag that you yourself afix to your windshield.

The act of getting in a private car and driving on a public street may well be something that's quite legal for a government entity to record and provide to others in a limited access database.

But the line that's been stepped over here is that ODOT and WSDOT - both with a particular ax to grind on funding for a new bridge - have used this information to target a population for conducting a "survey" that we know will likely will be used to bolster support for their position. It's not a scientific sampling - it doesn't include citizens who don't cross the bridge, or don't drive - but it will be represented as such.

If a group that opposed the bridge altogether, or opposed it as it is conceptually designed, made a request to get at this database for their own survey, my guess is that there would be hurdles put in their path.

Might I add that if I got this survey in the mail, I would send it back filled out with a gigantic F U !! in black Sharpie.

I crossed the little bridge at Hood River and went camping near Mt. Adams this weekend. I figure if I confess before they bring it up, maybe they'll go easy on me.

Wait until Oregon mandates all cars have a GPS unit installed for mileage based road tax and congestion pricing. Then they'll really know where you are going at all times.

If only they used this high technology to track the comings and goings of certain elected officials.

I crossed the I-5 Columbia River Bridge, a state line, that day to improve my handgun skills and to deliver tobacco seeds to someone who wants to avoid paying taxes on tobacco products.

Are cameras watching you on the way to doing something that is a little out of step with popular Portland culture?

PS -- Driving my SUV.

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