TC Palm by Lisa Broadt
May 2, 2017
Your every movement over a 24-hour period — as well as identifying information such as your occupation, income and race — could be collected by the Florida Department of Transportation in a survey intended to better understand Floridians’ travel habits.
But the way FDOT plans to handle those intimate details could jeopardize personal information and present other cybersecurity issues, according to an expert in the field.
The Department of Transportation says it will publish survey results only in aggregate, without revealing any individual’s information. But, state officials admit, it will compile and store the data using a variety of personal identifiers.
And that could create problems.
There are safer ways to collect data, said Sri Sridharan, director of the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, a consortium of 12 Florida universities.
“It would be best if the entire survey process was anonymized entirely to eliminate any personal identifiable markers,” Sridharan said Tuesday.
Participants potentially could face security hazards were the database hacked, he said.
“If the raw data was compromised and contained a way to identify the person that was surveyed, it could be used to social-engineer someone to gain additional information,” he said of fraudulent practices such as phishing, or sending emails intended to trick the recipient into revealing personal or financial information.
The voluntary survey is to begin this month on the Treasure Coast — Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties — and already is underway in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Multiple planning organizations throughout the state plan to partner with FDOT on a survey in 2018. It was unclear when others, such as Brevard, Collier, Escambia, Lee and Leon counties, would be surveyed, though similar surveys will be “necessary to accurately forecast travel demand,” according to FDOT.
FDOT on Tuesday emphasized “security and confidentiality” of participants’ information is a top concern to the state and the three survey contractors working with FDOT on the Treasure Coast, engineering firms CTS Engineering and Parsons Brinckerhoff and public relations firm Quest Corporations of America.
FDOT has taken steps to ensure private information is “adequately safeguarded,” said Barbara Kelleher, FDOT District 4 public information director.
“We limit access to the information to only those employees working on the project, and require them to comply with our privacy policies. We also conduct periodical review of both computers and databases to prevent unauthorized use of the systems,” Kelleher said.