Australia

Vic govt proposes phone data harvest

The Victorian Government is proposing harvesting data from personal devices to help monitor its public transport system and plan for the future.

Personal data from mobile phones, apps and GPS devices could be siphoned off by the Victorian government to help it monitor and plan people's travel times, and track demand and punctuality of the state's public network.

The government says the move will improve transport systems and allow it to plan for the future, "including mode of travel, purpose and time", as well as monitoring delays "across all modes of transport", The Australian reported on Tuesday.

"The department is primarily interested in location data collected through mobile and connected devices including, but not limited to, mobile phone network data, app location data, in-vehicle Bluetooth and GPS," a department tender note says.

But Liberty Victoria president Jessie Taylor says it is "deeply concerned" and Victorians should be "very wary" of such a move.

The government and other parties could harvest sensitive personal information about "individuals' whereabouts, movements and travel patterns", she warned.

"Of course it is within the government's purview to monitor the use and effectiveness of the transport system, but Victorians should not be required to forgo privacy and freedom of movement in exchange," Ms Taylor said.

However, Acting Transport Infrastructure Minister, Melissa Horne, said Victoria's strong privacy laws would protect against privacy invasion.

"We've got some of the toughest privacy laws in the country ... people can always turn off their location services if they want to," Ms Horne told reporters on Tuesday.

Acting Premier Lisa Neville said the privacy commissioner oversees any risks when it comes to concerns of privacy invasion.

"This is about de-identified information about where people are travelling, and it's about making sure we get Melbourne moving, that's what it's about," Ms Neville told reporters.

"There's strong privacy rules in Victoria, they apply for any of these scenarios."

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