Request Submitted To: MBTA & Transit Police

Category: Surveillance

Year Filed: 2012


In the last decade, the MBTA has undergone a fundamental change in how it operates, with the introduction of electronic fare media and the phasing out of the token system. Through the Charlie Card system, the MBTA provides riders with added convenience and benefits. It also is able to collect, store, and share information about millions of passengers, including those who use managed account services, those who purchase MBTA tickets online, and those who use a credit card to pay for a fare at a Charlie Card station. It has also been reported that the MBTA maintains data about the use of individual Charlie Cards that have been purchased with cash, although the use of such cards may not always disclose personally identifiable information.

With MBTA ridership at an all-time high, hundreds of thousands of people pass the turnstiles every day, leaving an electronic trace. Yet, the public is unaware of how that data is used, stored, or shared. In order to enhance the public’s understanding of these programs and to ensure a measure of accountability for the operations of the MBTA, the ACLU of Massachusetts requested records and documents pertaining to the use and implementation of these systems.