“Google Transit” To Help Customers Navigate New York City Transit System, But At What Cost to the Privacy of Its Customers?

This is cool! Google Transit, a feature of the Google Maps online mapping service, provides point-to-point public transit trip planning. Google Transit will now allow travelers to access streamlined, regional trip-planning based on up-to-date schedule data across the subway, bus and rail systems, including walking directions for the beginning or end of the trip.

The new service will include transit services throughout the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) service territory including: New York City Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, MTA Bus, Long Island Bus and Staten Island Railway, as well as other regional connecting services participating in the initiative, such as New Jersey Transit, the Port Authority’s AirTrain and Staten Island Ferry. But one wonders what information about its customers (and potential plaintiffs) the MTA (or its subsidiaries) will be able to glean from customers’ use of Google Transit.

For example, it has become commonplace for our clients to be asked at a hearing or deposition conducted by the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) whether they had used a Metrocard to gain access to the subway system, bus, etc. If turned over, the magnetic strip could be “read” and used to verify (or not) the client’s testimony and to acquire other information that people might consider private.

So were a plaintiff to testify that he or she used their BlackBerry in planning a trip during which an accident occurred, would the NYCTA be entitled to examine the device? And if so, to what extent and under what conditions of supervision? Could records from Google be obtained (we know that Google keeps a list of the searches made, “Google Health” raises privacy concerns)? I wouldn’t be surprised if some of this comes up in the future.

Some may not worry about the downside in light of the multitude of key benefits of Google Transit trip planner, including: Point-to-point trip planning using the familiar Google Maps format.

In-depth information about a destination:
– subway, train or bus stops serving the destination
– next scheduled departures from the station or stop
– search of nearby businesses, restaurants, attractions, and amenities (e.g. delicatessens near City Hall Station)

Unique, user-friendly features:
– 360-degree street-level views of the destination with Google Maps Street View, which can be rotated by the user with their computer mouse
– My Location feature triangulates the users approximate cell-phone position on Google Maps for mobile and indicates distance from the destination
– Still photo entries for popular destinations
– Icons for Wikipedia entries for places of interest at stations
– Trip planning also accessible via many portable devices.

Helpful links:
– Ability to instantly share a trip plan with friends via email
– A link on the Google Transit page will take visitors back to www.mta.info to access additional MTA information each time MTA data is shown on Google Maps. The program provides users with more valuable trip information; generates useful local information from Google Maps; and creates opportunities for MTA to reach out to car commuters who may not realize the availability, cost-effectiveness and convenience of public transit.

If you were injured in an accident involving public transportation and need a personal injury lawyer to navigate your way through the legal labyrinth, contact the offices of Levine & Slavit. For 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clients. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas. To learn more, watch our videos.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *