RTC’s Parking Cameras Are Security Risk, Some Users Say

by Karen Goff August 23, 2016 at 4:30 pm 27 Comments

RTC Parking signSeveral Reston Now readers have checked out the “Find My Car” kiosk now in use at Reston Town Center parking garages.

They don’t like what they — or pretty much anyone — can see.

The Find My Car electronic kiosk, touted by RTC owner Boston Properties as a perk of parking in the RTC garages, is aimed at helping you locate where you parked.

When you return to the garage, you can punch in your license plate number. The screen will show you a picture of your parked car, as well as info on space number.

Some users are calling that a violation of privacy, however.

Reston resident Mary Brett recently posted this on a local listserv and also messaged Boston Properties with her concerns:

“Yesterday, I became aware of the extremely dangerous ‘find your car’ computer in the garage next to Jackson’s. Once I typed my license plate number on the homepage, it revealed a very large, sharp photo of me exiting my vehicle alone. Once I tapped on the photo, it located my vehicle on a map.

Didn’t ANYONE realize that this machine is a stalker’s dream machine to hunt down prey?!? Angry ex? Bad boyfriend? Stalker? Robber? Rapist?”

The “Find My Car” software is part of the electronic upgrades that are being installed at Reston Town Center as paid parking prepares to go into effect on Sept. 12.

Parking will be $2 an hour on weekdays (Saturdays and Sundays remain free). RTC management is encouraging visitors to download the ParkRTC App for gateless and ticketless payment, as well as parking discounts and validation. There is also a LiveSafeRTC portion of the app, where visitors can report suspicious incidents and easily communicate with RTC security.

But some would-be visitors say they have issues with town center and the app developers, Passport Parking, having their credit card numbers, license plate numbers, and GPS location.

Brett calls the picture of her at RTC a “gross invasion of privacy.”

“Your seemingly innocent ‘innovation’ is both dangerous and a gross invasion of my privacy,” she told BP. “I never consented to you taking my photo, my vehicle’s photo, and providing this information to anyone perusing your public machine!”

“You have never provided visible security anywhere in the parking garages, and they are ripe for crime even without this ‘find your car’ insanity. Did no one have any common sense in this decision? You need to disconnect these machines immediately!”

Another reader points out that one does not even need to visit the town center to see where a car is parked.

Said the reader, who asked we not use his name:

“Anyone in the world can literally look up whether or not you are parked at RTC and specifically where you car is located by entering you plate into the app, Park Assist [which is affiliated with the system].  Here is a screen shot:”

ParkAssist Screenshot

“Imagine if you are an executive of Google or Rolls Royce or Leidos or other high-profile tenants at RTC and someone wants to stalk you,” he said. “All they have to do is to download the app and type in your plate.”

“What if you are a female and have a restraining order against someone? That creeper can check the app to find your exact parking space just by typing in your plate. He can then park next to you and wait for you to come back to your car. There are zero security measures on this.”

Kathy Walsh, spokesman for BP’s parking rollout, said the Park Assist Park Finder technology has been used in more than 50 sites globally. She says it has been used by Westfield Malls, General Growth Properties, Fort Lauderdale Airport and many more without incident.

“Additionally, according to Park Assist, a number of sites actually deploy the Find Your Car technology for enhanced security, to avoid customers looking for their cars late at night in a parking garage,” Walsh said in an e-mail. “Park Assist also points out that someone looking for another person’s car can just as easily do that by physically walking around, whether the system is in place or not.”

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