back to article City of Los Angeles sued for tracking rental scooter rides – that's the rideshare company's job says EFF and ACLU

The city of Los Angeles is the target of a lawsuit from civil rights groups angry over its tracking of rental scooter rides. A complaint [PDF] filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation claims that the city and its department of transportation are violating the Fourth Amendment (unreasonable …

  1. martinusher Silver badge

    But they're our streets

    Scooters are -- to use traditional English parlance -- a "Mechanically Propelled Vehicle". As such they're regulated by the state's Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV isn't as anal about tagging everything with a motor as a formal motor vehicle requiring plates, registration and what-have-you but its still a vehicle that's being used on public roads. Our roads. The city isn't being unreasonable monitoring them; they' ahve an interest in local traffic and an organization, LADoT, that manages it (you mostly encounter it giving out parking tickets but it does do a number of other things).

    If you desire scooter privacy then scoot in your own private space.

    1. Shadow Systems

      Re: But they're our streets

      I agree with the bulk of your post, all but the last bit. If you desire privacy in your travel then use your own transportation. Use of public transportation (bus, cab, etc) means the ride operator can track the vehicle location as part of providing the ride. Don't like it, don't want to be tracked, then don't use public transportation. The rental company is perfectly within its rights to do any form of tracking on their property, renters desires to the contrary be damned. The fact that the Department of Motor Vehicles is also tracking those vehicles is not a violation of the customers' rights, the rental company can be/probably already is/is actively tracking that vehicle already.

      TL;DR: sorry you don't like that rental vehicle being tracked, but it's not a violation of your rights for the rental company nor the DMV to do it. Don't want tracking, use your own personal, owned by you, private vehicle.

      1. logicalextreme

        Re: But they're our streets

        There's ANPR everywhere, and smartphones in a lot of people's pockets. I'd say if you don't want to be tracked you're gonna want to walk or cycle and leave your phone at home or switched off.

        As for the EFF's argument, whose job it is to collect and hold that data is moot if the person collecting and holding it has bollocks security.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: But they're our streets

          "I'd say if you don't want to be tracked you're gonna want to walk or cycle"

          Don't forget a mask for the facial recognition cameras. Change the mask regularly. And maybe a stone in your shoe, changed from left to right and differing sizes of stones changed regularly to foil the gait recognition cameras too.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Protesting metropass data next?

    One could infer from the argument alleged that if TransitCo has the metropass data showing where I got on the bus, one could deduce where I live and where I work/ shop/ get entertainment/ get back on the bus (or at least get within a quarter-mile of it). Not as complete a picture as the start+end points collected in scooter logs, but only because I don't need to swipe my metropass to leave the bus (yet, if some bright spark thinks this data could somehow generate revenue for TransitCo). And what about dial-a-ride service for the elderly/disabled by which TransitCo sends a minivan to collect passengers and drive them to shopping, appointments, and so on? That said, one need only observe the piles of discarded scooters in the bar/entertainment district to suss out where people go on the things.

  3. lglethal Silver badge

    Whilst I can see the point of the arguments from my fellow commentards above, one point from the EFF stands out for me. The LA Department of Transport, claim they need this info to track where people are leaving the scooters, so they dont block paths, etc.

    Why do they need the ride data? Surely more useful would be (if the data is really used for the stated purpose) would be data involving when the Scooters are stationary. A simple map of where all scooters are, no need for identifying details about individual scooters. Just a map of where all the scooters are when stationary. That would meet the stated requirements. If they want the full ride details for any other purposes, they should come clean and admit what they need/want the data for. And then people can decide if they really need that data.

  4. ratfox

    I guess from the city's point of view, they're tracking the position of the scooters, not the users... I think that the city has a legitimate interest in knowing what type of trips are made, if only to optimise traffic, possibly add new bus lines, etc. Of course, it might be wishful thinking to imagine something useful is done with this data, rather than just letting it sit in an unsecured AWS storage. The city has a better chance of winning the lawsuit if they demonstrate that the data is actively used for legitimate purpose, rather than just Silicon Valley-style data hoarding "because we can".

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      If it's just for a 'scooters at location x' count the DMV really don't need any other data other than the list of actual locations at regular time intervals (obviously not every second) - no other data needed.

      Traffic cams can do the congestion watching just as they do for all other vehicles.

  5. Drew Scriver

    Trust us - we're the government

    This news breaks just in time to bolster the case governments can indeed be trusted to not use COVID-19 tracking devices for any purposes other than to fight the pandemic, and to stay within the bounds of the US Constitution.

  6. T. F. M. Reader


    I tend to think of myself as very privacy-conscious, but in this case my knee-jerk reaction is, "please explain the details". In my mind, the crucial point is whether the data gathered is about scooters only or is linked in some way (credit card, phone number or ID, whatever) with who operated the scooter between point A and point B. In the latter case I'd argue that there is a potential privacy issue even if the data are anonymized. If it is just about scooters then I don't see a problem. And for tracking congestion or optimizing collection of abandoned scooters there is no need to collect anything about the renter. "The same person commutes regularly between A and B" is none of the City Hall's business.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Distinction

      The complaint states that only data about the scooters is recorded including the start and end points. The basis of the complaint is that this is sufficient to deanonymise the data.

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