The Pledge


The Pledge

A person drives to a parking location, parks, and leaves to go and do whatever they have planned for the day. This activity is repeated millions of times, just about every day. Most drivers don’t give a second thought about the parking technology used (unless it doesn’t work) or the data collected about them from that parking technology, the patterns that data can reveal, and what that data could be used for beyond that parking event. 

Many people understand this sort of data collection occurs regularly online, but they don’t realize it also happens when they park. (To be fair, it also occurs when using other forms of transportation, public or not, but we are focused on parking.) 

Customer privacy is one of the least discussed topics in the parking industry, and I think this needs to change. This month, I will divert from the standard column format to discuss what I believe could be a significant step forward for the privacy of parkers, the Parking Privacy Pledge. Don’t worry, we will be back to the standard format next month, so keep sending your questions. 

Very few people in the parking industry have talked about overall parker privacy. There have been discussions about the impact of state laws on license plate reader (LPR) technology or new state laws on personally identifiable information (PII). Many people have covered the need to implement data security to comply with the payment card industry (PCI) standards. But none of these topics addresses the broader issue of parker privacy.   

I believe there are three key reasons why (at least in the U.S.) the parking industry has not broadly talked about parking privacy. The first is a simple one: it has not become a significant issue for the public, yet. There have not been any widely publicized major breaches of private parking data (but the breaches have happened), thus minimal customer pushback on this topic. 

Second, most parking operations spend most of their time dealing with more pressing items such as keeping customers happy and running a profitable operation. The third is that many parking technology companies do not want to be talking about the topic. The reasons for the silence are varied. The issue can be complicated, and, as we mentioned before, many customers don’t see value in it. However, for some newer parking technology companies, the lack of that customer privacy (and the ability to monetize that data) is key to their business model.

This issue (among others) was discussed at length during last year’s Temecula Group. The Temecula Group is an annual parking industry think tank hosted by John Van Horn. I like to think of it as Davos for the parking industry, but it is much more practical (and less fancy) than Davos, in reality. The outcome of this discussion is what we are now calling the Parking Privacy Pledge. The pledge reads as follows: 

We pledge to protect the privacy of our customers. We believe that customers’ personal data should not be sold, traded, or used for non-parking-related purposes. Parking applications should not be used to track specific customer activities or patterns for non-parking activities. All customer’s personal data should be handled and stored securely, following the best data security and encryption practices. Our organization’s privacy policy has been adopted, is regularly updated, and is easily accessible on our website, along with contact information for any questions about our privacy policies or this pledge.

This pledge is designed to start a conversation about parker privacy and publicly allow companies and parking organizations to announce their views and values about parker data privacy. This statement is designed to be used along with a written privacy policy unique to the company’s organizational needs and state and local requirements. Effectively, the pledge is the broad public values statement, while the privacy policy is the specific implementation of those values. 

This pledge only works if organizations across the parking industry adopt it, implement customer-focused privacy policies, and begin to have a broader discussion and focus on parker privacy. For most organizations, the most challenging thing will be getting started and finding the right people in their organizations who can approve this sort of statement. But as more groups begin to sign the pledge, it will become easier for groups after them to do it. Getting any movement started is hard, but every step creates momentum. 

The act of parking a vehicle is not private. But the data generated by that parking activity should be kept private. Just because our customers aren’t asking for it yet, doesn’t mean we don’t need to put these protections in place now. We have an opportunity to improve the parking industry, we just need to take the first step. 

Article contributed by:
Kevin Uhlenhaker
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