Retention times for Clipper card information may be reduced 

click to enlarge The records retained by the Clipper card have previously been used in civil and criminal cases. - MIKE KOOZMIN/2011 S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • mike koozmin/2011 s.f. examiner file photo
  • The records retained by the Clipper card have previously been used in civil and criminal cases.

In an effort to increase privacy measures, the duration for which regional officials can keep personal information obtained by the Clipper card is set to be reduced.

Currently, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which oversees the universal transit payment system, can retain personal travel data for up to seven years for cards that are registered.

However, some local policymakers and rights groups have said the lengthy retention time is an invasion of people’s civil liberties. There was particular concern following media reports that law enforcement officials had subpoenaed the records for criminal and civil cases.

To address those issues, the MTC is scheduled to vote today on reducing the retention from seven years to 4½ years.

The commission originally considered slashing the retention term to three years. But the state’s statute of limitations for claims concerning Clipper card payment disputes is four years, so that alternative was dropped.

The 4½-year time period was decided as the best compromise, according to the commission. That duration will mirror the retention term for information collected by the FasTrak car transponder, which is used by motorists for bridge payments.

Along with reducing the retention rates for Clipper card holders, the MTC will reinforce its policy of only sharing the personal data with its partner transit agencies, the card’s manufacturers, the California Department of Justice and other sources when legally necessary. Clipper customers do have the option of using the card anonymously by paying cash or not registering it to a credit card.

California Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, has introduced a bill that would reduce retention rates to six months for personal data collected by electronic fare media. The MTC has taken a position of opposition to that legislation.

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Will Reisman

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