The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
News

Police Track TransLink Riders Using Debit, Credit Card Info

Law enforcement can access financial transaction records to identify Compass card users.

By Bryan Carney 10 Nov 2017 | TheTyee.ca

Bryan Carney is director of web production at The Tyee.

Even if you don’t register your TransLink Compass card and provide your personal information, your travel history could likely be tracked and shared with police.

A Tyee freedom of information request confirms that police requested the financial transaction data used in Compass card or fare purchases on three occasions in 2017 and obtained it from TransLink in two of those occasions.

The third request did not have any information because the fare or refill (TransLink would not specify) was purchased using cash.

The information retained by TransLink which can be passed to law enforcement includes the type of transaction (credit or debit), transaction date, time, transaction amount and the last four digits of the payment card. The law enforcement agency would then be referred to the appropriate financial institution if it wished to attempt to identify the rider under investigation, TransLink said.

Once a rider’s identity was determined, police could connect it to data obtainable on all travel within the TransLink system using a Compass card.

All three police request were made using a “production order”, which legally obliges TransLink to deliver documents in a specified period. TransLink stated that it was limited by court order from providing any details about these police requests or transactions to The Tyee.

In August, The Tyee broke the news that TransLink was increasingly sharing riders’ personal information — including name, phone number, email address and travel history — with police.

The report revealed that TransLink had received 132 requests from law enforcement agencies for information on transit users in the first seven months of 2017, and granted 82. The number of requests was on track to jump 30 per cent over 2016.

More than 900,000 people have Compass cards, though not all are registered.

By comparison, Metrolinx, which has Presto, a similar transit card system in Ontario, had granted just 12 of 26 requests for personal information on riders, according to the Toronto Star. The Ontario card system has 2.5 million users.

The Tyee report prompted an investigation into TransLink’s “collection, use, and disclosure of its ridership’s personal information” by the province’s Information and Privacy Commissioner.

The announcement of the review did not include a timeline and there have been no updates or progress reports.

When the original story was published TransLink noted that its Compass card registration system is optional and it didn’t enforce a requirement to use real identifying information, despite strong language in the Compass Card Terms and Conditions requiring accurate information and notification of any changes.

However, if police are able to identify a rider using the credit or debit card transaction information, refusing to register the card does not appear to provide any privacy protection.

Information on other transactions, in stores or restaurants or online, could also be provided to police under court order.

Asked about other methods of rider identification sought by police, TransLink wrote that it had no information indicating that video recordings were used to identify ticket purchasers.

However it also said that video footage may be used by law enforcement to identify a person of interest for a specific investigation and that cameras are set up to capture general areas and a Compass vending machine may fall within that view.

The Tyee’s request for all methods used to identify riders resulted in TransLink exercising a right under the Freedom of Information Act to take an additional 30 business days on top of the original 30 days allowed to respond to a freedom of information request.

The final reply was received at 4 p.m. on Nov. 6, exactly 60 business days after the Aug. 9. request.

Other provinces have 30 days rather than the longer 30 business day wait to process FOI requests.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities

Do:

  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

Tyee Poll: Are You Preparing for the Next Climate Disaster?

Take this week's poll