TTC accused of profiling with passenger information cards
Civil rights and privacy experts are eyeing the TTC closely this week in the wake of a Toronto Star investigation that revealed some questionable internal practices involving passenger data.
In an explosive report on Monday morning, the Star announced that it had obtained evidence of more than 40,000 cards containing sensitive information about riders who had not been charged with an offence.
.@BenSpurr worked for months to figure out the TTC is carding people who aren’t charged, keeping their data - including race - for 20 years and sharing it with police. A disproportionate number of Black people were carded by TTC officers in records Ben reviewed. Pick up a paper. pic.twitter.com/mjv4pZiUfK— Jennifer Pagliaro (@jpags) March 9, 2019
The cards were, and still are, filled out by fare inspectors and enforcement officers who believe that someone has commited an offence but does not deserve a ticket.
Instead of being penalized financially, passengers in this situation are simply required to hand over such personal information as their name, address, birth date, aliases, license number, race and other physical features.
That information is then plugged into a database where it remains for 20 years—a database which The Star says "transit officers access daily but which most transit users aren't even aware exists."
#PublicTransportation has always closely interlaced with race, class & #civilrights (i.e Rosa Parks & Boston’s busing boycott). In #Toronto the #TTC is using it for #carding practices. Canada’s City Transit Systems continue to fail the most vulnerable segments of our population! https://t.co/61EdFoLu3Q— Amina (@Bambinior) March 11, 2019
The newspaper found through a freedom of information request that TTC officers had filled out more than 40,000 such forms between 2008 and the end of 2018.
Those filed prior to 2015 are identical in format to the forms scrapped by Toronto Police back in 2013 over accountability issues.
While some in the city say filling out these forms sounds an awful lot like the controversial (and recently restricted) practice of police carding, TTC officials say that it's merely an investigative tool used to identify repeat offenders.
Hi, as mentioned in the article TTC is not engaged in any form of carding. We do not stop customers randomly and investigate them and we absolutely do not target, intentionally or otherwise anyone @HRLSC_ON @TorontoStar ^TH— TTC Customer Service (@TTChelps) March 11, 2019
"The TTC has never conducted, nor does it conduct, random stops and checks of anyone," said TTC spokesperson Stuart Green in response to the Star's reports.
True as this may be, some learning of the database today are uncomfortable with the idea of a public transit agency storing such information, even about those accused of breaking rules.
This is indistinguishable from racial profiling and carding. Someone I used to know often wouldn't pay his fare when boarding a streetcar, and he was never stopped. Why? Because he's white. #ttc #topoli #racism https://t.co/A26mMuwhUD— Nawal (@narwhalmohammad) March 11, 2019
"Growing up with the TTC most of my life, it felt expected that it was a similarly systematicly racist organization to the police, with much less disciplinary power," wrote one Toronto resident on Twitter in response to the Star report.
"Twenty-first racism at work in Toronto," wrote another. "Past time to end this systemic racism on the TTC and elsewhere."
You can read more about the controversy and the city's reaction to it here.
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