So, today it was announced that train companies operating services in and out of London would be enabling passengers to use Oyster by 2009 (originally via Londonist, and also this morning’s traditional deadwood press).
For readers who don’t frequent the capital of our fair nation: Oyster is a system whereby you have a cash-chargeable electronic card which you swipe over readers in Tube stations and on buses and trams, removing the need for paper tickets and unifying the travel experience across the network. It’s futuristic, fabulous, and the people demand it! says Mayor Ken (well, that’s the gist of what he says, anyway). It has been around for a few years now. Over the past year, Transport for London has been “encouraging” people to “upgrade” to Oyster, by offering better fares if you use the system and don’t use daily tickets.
I live outside London, and I don’t (currently) work in London throughout the week, and I often need to expense travel. Therefore, I generally buy paper travelcards from my home station. I don’t own an Oyster card.
So, won’t I jump for joy at the prospect of a shiny plastic card replacing these backward paper monstrosities called “tickets”?
For a start, I’ve yet to be convinced of the privacy and security issues. I have recently been told (and I have to admit that I’d never bothered to investigate) that you don’t actually have to register your name and address in order to get a card, they will just issue one. Previously, I’d thought that you had to provide all of your identity date in order to get one. So, if I can use it “anonymously”, should I be worried about surveillance? Well… I’ve got nothing to hide, but I can’t get over the niggling feeling that I don’t want all of this information recorded about me. There are apparently ways to shield the card, so that information can’t leak out, but it won’t stop the network tracking my movements, even if it doesn’t know who I am – not hard to correlate times with CCTV footage, for example, and we know just how much we’re all under the watchful eyes of cameras in the UK these days.
Another thought… I’m sat on a train right now, and the guard has just been through to inspect tickets. Wonder how that will work when Oyster is introduced? I’ll have swiped my card at the mainline station to get through the barrier to get on the train, so naturally I’ll be within my rights to be sitting here. Unless I jumped the barrier, or got on at a smaller regional station. Could be fun. Maybe they could do an iris scan and check my ID card on the way through the carriage. Flashbacks to Minority Report…
I suppose this discussion forms an interesting counterpoint to my views on Declarative Living (to borrow James Governor’s term). I do spray information about my location, my listening habits and my daily life around the web on a fairly liberal basis.I listened to a great podcast on the way home last night, where Suw Charman and Stephanie Booth discussed whether or not geotagging and geoinformation is such a good thing, and it got me thinking. I guess the reason I’m more comfortable about my activity information being online is that it feels more “opt-in”. With Oyster, I don’t have a choice about what information is stored, and I have to travel so can’t avoid it; with Web 2.0, I choose whether to run the Plazes or last.fm client software at any point in time, controlling both the what and when of the information in question (unless I forget to switch off the last.fm client when listening to Shania Twain…). It’s a personal option.