Personal Security in Light of Information Privacy

Security and information privacy are current and relevant issues concerning digitalization and digital applications. While increasing surveillance naturally leads to more security, it also restricts free and individual expression. Accordingly it is essential to balance these interests.

With simple security systems such as smoke and fire alarms or passenger alarm systems, information privacy is hardly an issue. They either use no personal data or only such data which is evidently necessary. The systems are designed to provide optimal aid in case of a present emergency.

Information Privacy – the Secure Handling of Customer Data

Security Systems Protect Passengers and Machines

Every Company is Committed to Information Privacy

Personal data is information which can be matched to a specific individual. This includes for instance, date or place of birth as well as membership in a religious organization. Furthermore personal data is information that can be related to individuals, such as electronic keys on smartcards which only provide specific information after matching with a transport enterprise’s database.

Transport companies must treat personal data with diligence, and not just since the introduction of European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The companies are obligated to ensure that it is objectively necessary to store and process the information. Especially in passenger and fare management very sensitive data arises: To handle payment processing, the name, address and bank details of the passenger are stored. In addition the sphere of privacy is affected since storing single journeys indefinitely does allow the construction of movement profiles.

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Video Systems Utilize Artificial Intelligence

Similarly problematic is the use of surveillance cameras to monitor public spaces. These cameras are arguably by now and at large accepted for the purpose of improving security. However the question remains how their recordings are used and how long they are stored. Individual passengers can be tracked automatically today using artificial intelligence. But while that works like a miracle drug in case of a manhunt for a criminal, it can without further adaptation also be used for repressing political opposition, for example.

Accordingly it is instrumental for a company to communicate to the passengers transparently how the collected data is treated. Storage period, purpose and collection of data must be clearly determined. The passengers must be able to trust that a data protection officer oversees the lawful usage of their data in accordance with all regulations.

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Information Privacy – the Secure Handling of Customer Data

In our digitally connected information society, data privacy is of key importance. The term comprises

  • the technical side, that is the protection of existing data from improper data processing,
  • the right to information self-determination and
  • the protection of the private sphere.

Protection of Customer Data is Legally Regulated

The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) together with Article 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union are the foundation of the right to information self-determination. According to this, every individual may decide on their own what personal data they reveal and how this may be processed. For public transport the following customer data is especially relevant:

  • name and address,
  • bank details,
  • electronic identification via RFID-tags in tickets,
  • potential movement profiles from electronic tickets and smart cards,
  • video recordings of surveillance systems.

A Transparent Passenger Data Administration Creates Trust

It is self-evident that electronic tickets can only operate by processing user information such as name, address and bank details. How the transport company handles their customers’ data is therefore important.

Every transport company must protect their customer data and also attest to that in a comprehensible and credible manner. The company is obligated to designate a data protection officer who ensures that the directives are observed. The more transparently the customers can comprehend how the passenger data administration processes the collected data, the more willing they will be to use digital services.

Regularly Cleaning Up Passenger Data

The thorough reasoning and weighing of interests when collecting passenger data must be accessible to the passenger. Surveillance cameras within public transport vehicles which improve security are admissible and also widely accepted by passengers. If the transport company however, were to put this data on the internet as a live stream, justified protest would ensue – due to a lack of necessity.

The protection of customer data also must consider the amount of data collected. An electronic ticket purchased for a single journey requires information which in itself does not pose a threat to the passenger’s privacy. However the combination of all purchases within a certain period of time will possibly provide a very detailed movement profile. Supplemented with further data, such as larger public events, one can construct a personality profile which is incompatible with the right to privacy. Consequently the traffic company must not only ensure appropriate processing, but also the regular deletion of passenger data no longer needed.

Security Systems Protect Passengers and Machines

Security systems alert the appropriate coordinators in case of an apparent problem. In this way, if a medical emergency arises rescue services can be requested immediately. For service operations security systems provide access control: Ideally, they only allow for transport with a valid ticket. Modern security systems are usually integrated electronically. They comprise for instance

  • passenger alarm systems,
  • fire detection,
  • access and barrier control,
  • video surveillance.

Passenger Alarm Systems Provide Security on Public Transport

Since local and long-distance traffic services a large amount of people at once, every service provider must have efficient emergency and alarm systems. These must be organized in such a way that the traffic operators can identify the type of problem at hand when an alarm signal is raised.

In particular for individual danger it is important that the passengers themselves can give the alarm. In case a medical emergency occurs, the person affected or a fellow passenger can inform the transportation operators via a passenger alarm system. The system must be designed so that it can also be used by wheelchair users or children. The alerted staff can then initiate further measures – they can administer first aid, manage an unscheduled stop or notify rescue services.

Video Surveillance Systems Assist in Cases of Emergency

For the purpose of fire safety, the transport operator’s staff has predetermined routines: These specify passenger evacuation and measures for firefighting. Amongst these routines is raising the fire alarm and alerting the fire service. Modern systems are already automated for these procedures, including integrated video linkage.

The surveillance cameras – usually implemented as CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) – contribute to security. When fitted with appropriate video systems software they provide a video feed of the fire directly to the fire services. Using this visual information, fire experts can analyze the situation and coordinate appropriate measures.

Video Surveillance Prevents Vandalism

Surveillance cameras also serve to monitor passengers. They not only contribute to security at large locations, for instance at train stations, but also protect from increasing vandalism. Intelligent recordings are managed by artificial intelligence. The latter can identify certain patterns – such as the behavior of pickpockets – from the video material and if indicated also the suspected person.

Jimmying surveillance can also be implemented using video surveillance: The recording system visually captures a ticket machine and its standard usage by passengers. Employing training data from known cases of jimmying, the system learns how to recognize this pattern and raises an alarm. If combined with a wireless alarm at the machine, the perpetrators can even be identified while committing the crime.