Your Clipper card is watching you
Your sludgy-slow daily commute. Your jaunts to see mom over in Visitation Valley. Your hookups in the Upper Haight.
Take these trips on Muni, Caltrain, BART or any Clipper-enabled system, and your entire public transit history could be accessed by law enforcement armed with a subpeona or search warrant.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission told the intrepid Bay Citizen that only three times since 2010 have subpeonas or search warrants been received which sought an individual’s travel history.
Even so, the commission holds complete travel records on every Clipper user for up to seven years, even after a Clipper account is closed.
Clipper users wishing to cruise under Big Bro’s radar can buy cards with cash and not register them to their name, or use limited-use cards, or — gasp — even cash.
And it’s not just law enforcement that can read trip information, either. It’s any old schmo with your Clipper card and a smartphone.
An Android app called FareBot — around since early 2011 — can read and display travel and fare histories for several card-based transit payment systems around the world — including the Clipper system used in the Bay Area.
The app requires an NFC-enabled — near field communication — phone to function. Google’s Galaxy S and Galaxy Nexus are recommended by developers.
At least 10,000 users have downloaded the FareBot app to their Android phones. SFBay was able to load the app on a Galaxy Nexus running the Android Jelly Bean 4.1 operating system.
After launching the app, holding a Clipper card to the back of the phone for a few seconds resulted in a confirmation message and then, voila, several years worth of Muni trips.
No location information is stored for Muni trips, but BART trips include station of entry and exit. Perhaps not enough to convict you of the murder of the century, but damning evidence indeed in the courtrooms of suspicious husbands or girlfriends.