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Fast track information Swiss transport card could threaten data privacy

The card is used by the many people who take public transport on a regular basis

(Keystone)

The Federal Railways‘ ‘SwissPass’ public transport card collects too much data from users, according to the Federal data protection commissioner. There are calls for data already collected, to be deleted.

The SwissPassexternal link is a red plastic card that carries a microchip containing a travel pass of some kind, such as a half-price subscription or a national pass allowing the holder to travel on most public transport in the country for a set fee.

The card is scanned by ticket inspectors on buses and trains, and the time of day, train or route number and pass number are all saved within 90 minutes to a database.

The Federal data protection commissioner (ad interim), Jean-Philippe Walter, wrote in an open letter on Wednesday, that he could not rule out the possibility that the stored data was being used to create profiles of people’s movements. Walter has called on the Swiss Federal Railways and the Association of Public Transport to immediately delete the information that has been gathered during ticket checks since the SwissPass was fully rolled out in August 2015.

By mid-October, the database already contained 3.2 million entries. The Federal Railways say the information gathered is not being used for marketing purposes or given to third parties. The commissioner wants there to be more transparency for pass holders to understand how exactly their data is being used, and how they can object to this usage.

Walter wrote that from his perspective, the storage of the data was neither necessary nor useful, and as such, was disproportionate.

The Federal Railways and the Transport Association have until the end of February to state whether they accept the commissioner’s recommendations, before the transport ministry could become involved, potentially making legal stipulations about the course of action to be taken. 

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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