The city and state of New York have installed a network of wireless-reader devices to monitor the locations of drivers who use the E-Z Pass tag to electronically pay bridge and tunnel tolls, according to documents obtained by the New York Civil Liberties Union. The program – meant to monitor traffic patterns, according to officials – came to light when a privacy activist hacked his E-Z Pass transponder and programmed it to make a sound each time the device was being remotely read. He discovered a network of locations in Lower Manhattan, far from any toll plazas, where his presence was being monitored.

Using the New York Freedom of Information Law, the NYCLU launched an investigation into why E-Z Pass readers were being installed far from toll-booth locations and being used for purposes not originally intended. Following several Freedom of Information Law requests, the results have now been released. “What we’ve learned is that both city and state transportation agencies have set up E-Z Pass readers around the state as part of technology-based traffic management programs called Midtown in Motion,” NYCLU said in a released statement.“The city Department of Transportation initially installed 100 microwave sensors, 32 traffic video cameras and E-Z Pass readers at 23 intersections to measure traffic volumes and congestion. By July 2014, that program had expanded to 149 E-Z Pass readers around the city. Outside of New York City, the State Department of Transportation in partnership with other entities has set up a similar traffic management program that scans E-Z Pass tags on major transportation corridors, away from toll plazas.” MORE