Privacy not ‘invaded’ when people freely give up rights

Brent Stafford theQ Leave a Comment

theQuestion: Is the ability to track your movements through the Compass Card an invasion of privacy?*

In the nearly three months since I joined this column, there are two issues readers have made clear they think I am on the wrong side of — my support for the government’s secret surveillance program and my defence last week of TransLink. You can only imagine my enthusiasm for this week’s Duel, which addresses both of these topics — invasion of privacy and TransLink.

Considering I have won only three out of 10 Duels so far, you might think I would temper my positions and find a way to ameliorate my reputation. However, as they say in poker, I’m “all in” and categorically state if you agree with Laila and believe the ability of the new Compass Card to track your movements is an invasion of privacy, you are most certainly wrong.

It’s simple — your privacy cannot be “invaded” when you freely choose to give up your right to privacy. You do that every time you choose to avail the services and conveniences of modern life. When you accept the terms and conditions for your credit and debit card, you give up certain privacy rights. When you surf the Internet with “cookies” enabled, when you allow an app on your smartphone to access your location, and when you sign up for a retailer’s points card, you are freely giving up aspects of your right to privacy. When you make the choice, your right to privacy is not being invaded.

The same goes for the Compass Card. If you choose to conveniently load and reload your card via credit or debit, you will indeed be approving the access and storage of some of your personal information. However, that personal information does not include your movements through the transit system.

To clarify this, I contacted TransLink late last week. TransLink is implementing two separate databases that are not linked. One will store anonymous bulk trip origins and destinations in order to analyze customer demand and service capacity. The other is a secure transaction database that will store personal information for people with “program cards” or those who have registered their Compass Card. These records will be kept confidential, protected by B.C.’s privacy legislation.

There you have it. Your movements will not be tracked. However, if you are suspicious by nature and plan to cheat on your spouse, defraud your insurance company or commit a crime, then you can always use cash to purchase a Compass Card. Just make sure to wear a baseball cap and cover your face, as CCTV cameras may be watching.

*First published in 24hrs Vancouver ‘theDuel’

About the Author

Brent Stafford

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Political commentator, opinion columnist and veteran television producer. He is the founder and executive producer at and Contact: or 778.896.7794

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