The NSW government has revealed today that their ‘Opal’ Tracking Devices can also be used to pay for public transport fares, in a revelation that has shocked thousands of Opal card owners across the state who were previously unaware of this feature.
In a media release today Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian stated that “The Opal Tracking Device already provides over one hundred organisations with information about the time, mode and location of your every trip, as well as your email addresses, postal addresses, mobile phone numbers and banking details. Now they can also be used to pay for transport too. Securing new sources of revenue is more important than ever for the NSW Government, especially since we need to pay off that $1.2 billion Opal rollout.”
The media release goes on to point out that this feature has actually been available for months now, though most customers were not aware of it due to the lack of ticket machines at major train stations, and a lack of functioning scanners on buses.
Despite unveiling the new feature, the government did concede that customers on the Newcastle rail line will remain unable to use Opal Tracking Devices to pay for train trips for the foreseeable future, as the state government has ceased all trains on the line. Similarly, the new Macquarie track will soon be shut down, though once reopened, Macquarie line customers will be able to ‘tap on’ to the improved trains, which will be smaller and will have fewer seats.
Developed meticulously over 18 years, Opal cards were originally devised by the government as a convenient way to save on the time and money normally associated with obtaining a warrant before being able to snoop through the public’s personal data. The government now estimates this feature may have saved the Police, Centrelink, local councils, the RSPCA, and the Tax Office thousands of man hours that would have otherwise been wasted justifying their actions to a court.
To inform customers of the changes, the State Government has spent $5 million on an advertising campaign, featuring a morph suit and a sheet of cardboard.
Despite being satire, all of the above claims about the Opal card functionality, rollout, warrantless data harvesting and rail shut downs are actually true.