ParkRTC Privacy Secure, Reston Town Center Officials Say

by Karen Goff October 5, 2016 at 10:00 am 27 Comments

ParkRTC AppPaid parking at Reston Town Center has been postponed until January, but citizen concerns about using the new Park RTC app remain.

Many would-be users say they are wary of downloading the app, developed by Passport Parking, because of privacy concerns about the app having access to credit card information and the phone’s camera. Additionally, the “find my car” kiosk feature has been called a “stalker’s dream” by some Reston Now commenters.

A Reston Town Center spokesman said users can find parking more quickly, pay for parking from the comfort of their own vehicles, extend parking sessions remotely, get receipts online, avoid credit card and transaction fees and much more by using the app.

The app also features LiveSafe, a feature where patrons can report security concerns to town center management and security, as well as contact Fairfax County Police with the touch of a button. LiveSafe is now live on the app, which can be downloaded from iTunes or Google Play.

But RTC has still been hit with many security questions. That’s why they have released some answers.

Here are some of the most common ones directed at RTC, with answers from its owner, Boston Properties:

Is my credit card data safe and privacy protected?

Yes. Both Passport Inc. and Reston Town Center take the important responsibility to protect credit card information very seriously.
Passport conducts regular audits of its information security systems to ensure there are no vulnerabilities — data security is core to their business.

Passport employs a two factor authentication (2FA) process that requires first-time users to verify their identity by entering a text authorization sent to verify device ownership in addition to a pin number.

Passport also holds compliance with PCI DSS Level 1 certification, the most stringent data security framework administered by the PCI Security Standards Council.

Passport will never sell or distribute ParkRTC user information to third parties.

Why does the ParkRTC app request access to my mobile device’s GPS?

At the discretion of and convenience to the parker, GPS is incorporated for three reasons: (1) to quickly find open parking spaces, (2) to identify retailers who validate or have special offers and (3) to work with the LiveSafe technology to identify the location of a patron who needs immediate assistance. Guests can turn off locations services for the app or pay at pay stations if they prefer.

When downloading the ParkRTC app, why are users prompted to allow camera access?

This is optional and the prompt is activated in the event that the user wants to utilize their camera option to photograph their credit card while activating their account. Some people prefer this feature, similar to online banking models. Users can easily bypass and not engage
this option.

Can you provide clarity around the imaging of my vehicle when I park?

Park Assist’s (www.parkassist.com) parking guidance systems utilize the latest in smart-sensor technology. The “Find Your Car” feature is available at the pay stations; this feature was requested by patrons and the technology has been used in more than 50 [parking] sites globally without incident.

Most importantly, parkers should understand that the sensors are not live monitored, nor are they surveillance cameras. They simply take a micro image of a license plate which is immediately discarded after the vehicle leaves the garage.

Can you tell me more about the sensors that take my license plate image?

The Park Assist M4 sensors installed at Reston Town Center use sophisticated algorithms to detect the presence of a vehicle in a parking space. This function of “vehicle detection” allows the
sensors, along with the integrated dynamic signs of the Park Assist system, to guide customers to the nearest available parking space.

Once an M4 sensor detects a vehicle in a parking space, it takes an image of that vehicle to assist with the alignment of payment for
the parking space with the identified vehicle. Using License Plate Recognition technology, the M4 sensor verifies the vehicle has paid for parking.

Once a vehicle leaves a parking space, that image is removed from the database. The technology is also designed to save parkers
from the unpleasant experience of circling garages looking for parking spaces.

How does “Find my Car” work? What is being done to ensure that only the person parking can use this technology?

At any of the four “Find Your Car” kiosks, parkers will search for the
location of their car by entering the 8- or 9-digit unique parking session ID code received through the ParkRTC app or phone.

RTC has elected not to utilize any mobile component of
the Park Assist technology at this time; “Find Your Car” will only be accessible at one of the four pay station kiosks once paid parking starts in January of 2017.

Can you provide examples of items that can be reported via LiveSafe?

Guests can use the app to communicate directly with RTC safety and security teams in real-time, from quality of life tips such as light outages or an area that needs clean-up to suspicious activity. Non-emergent reports are automatically dispatched to the appropriate onsite personnel and will be responded to within 48 hours.

In what types of situations could I use LiveSafe?

You can use the LiveSafe app to communicate any type of situation, from a lost child or pet to assistance with a health emergency. LiveSafe also includes a feature that allows
you to connect with a friend or family member to virtually walk you to your car.

  • Ed Cacciapaglia

    Secure or not, I don’t plan to use the app or ever pay for parking at town center. We need to keep pounding on Boston Properties over the pay for parking issue. Keep up the good work, Reston!

    • Anon

      I hate that they are going to enforce pay to park…. but I actually think the app helps me avoid the clowncenter because its such a hurdle to install it !!!

  • Arielle in NoVA

    Says the image is removed from the database when you leave the garage. I find that hard to believe. The images aren’t backed up at all (like to the cloud every few minutes – and the entire database isn’t automatically backed up somewhere every few minutes)? If a crime is later reported, they can’t go back and look through images?

    • JoeInReston

      Its the data provided by the images that concerns me. They will have data on every trip you made to the Reston Town Center with your car – when you came and when you left. This will occur regardless of whether you used their phone app or not.

      Yes, I am sure old school parking garages have video footage of every car entering and exiting the garage, but there is a huge difference between unprocessed video feed files and processed data that is query-able by license plate or name.

      • Local Privacy Advocate

        Agreed! My concern is with the vast collection of unnecessary data collection. Anyone can get hacked – Target and Home Depot anyone? and of course Boston Properties is going to monetize the data – that’s just 21st century business now.

        What irks me about this data collection is that it will happen whether or not you sign up with the app. Literally everyone who parks at Reston Town Center will have data collected about them. Location data is sensitive information. I do not consent to the collection of sensitive information without being able to opt out and with very little value provided to me as a consumer. Plus the whole idea of Reston Town Center as a welcoming community gathering place will be forever tainted by this unnecessary Big Brother-ing.

        Companies like Boston Properties and RTC will only care about data privacy if the market demands it – right now the market is very lax about privacy requests, so they don’t have to care. Let’s make them care!

  • Viviana Murphy Kelly

    I can’t even get on google without it suggesting other websites or showing me ads/banners for similar brands/ items…I’m never allowing parkrtc to access anything because I’m never paying for parking at the rtc…EVER….

  • Edward Calvert

    Oh. Well. Guess it will be very secure while they’re selling my information all over gods green earth! I will not be downloading this app. Oh, ps, and thanks for sticking it in the backs of employees like those at Starbucks Coffee and cosi ! Boston properties sounds like a quality operation through and through

  • HP


  • Larry

    What happens if one does not have a smart phone and just wants to go to the Bowtie theatre that provides free parking validation?

    • JoeInReston

      Selected cuts from https://www.restonnow.com/2016/08/10/rtc-parking-101-what-if-i-dont-download-the-payment-app/ :

      “So let’s say your co-workers are going to happy hour at Jackson’s or you have to take your child to a birthday party at Bow Tie Cinemas (both of which have plans to offer validation) and you begrudgingly must enter the $2-an-hour paid parking zone. What to do?

      If you are not using the App, once you park you car in one of the seven garages at town center, you have a 15-minute grace period to sign-in your car at one of four pay kiosks. Kiosks are in the Purple, Blue, Green and Orange garages.

      When you get to a pay station: Enter your zone (that’s listed on signs near where you parked); license plate number; expected length of stay; and payment information (credit card, debit card or cash).

      For cash users, the pay stations will not give change or provide refunds.
      Many stores will validate (it’s high-tech and elaborate; more on that on Reston Now tomorrow), but here is something to know if you are App-less: The validation code you will get is good for your next visit to RTC and not on your current visit (App users will get the validation automatically and immediately sent to their account).”

      • JoeInReston

        The only parking garage that I know of that forces you to estimate your length of stay.

      • Robert Mowbray

        Not at all user friendly for those of us who do not have smart phones. Guess I won’t be donating blood or attending free senior movies.

      • Larry

        In other words one gives credit/debit card info or inserts cash in the kiosk in advance of getting a validation code from a merchant such as Bowtie that provides free parking validation?

        • JoeInReston

          With the following caveats:
          – the kiosk visit must occur immediately after parking, not when you are ready to leave. You must provide not only credit card info, but license plate, parking garage, and length of stay information.
          – there are four kiosks and seven garages, you may have to walk to another garage to find a kiosk
          – the free parking validation is only good for a subsequent trip and not your current trip (if you are not using the phone app)

  • Bert

    I’m not paying. Not downloading. Not using. Period.

  • Generic User

    “Passport will never sell or distribute ParkRTC user information to
    third parties.” Noticeably missing is the statement that Boston
    Properties won’t sell your information to third parties. Why? Because
    that is exactly what they intend to do!

    Nice try, Fallston and BP. Still not downloading your app or paying for your parking.

    • RestonGrandma

      And under the terms and conditions it says that they can share your information with companies they do business with. And the names of who they do business with is not specified. In an earlier attempt to explain this away BP touted the advantage of a store you were walking by to sense your presence so it can make you offers or tell you about sales. So there is no privacy at all.
      Stay strong people – I think we can beat them!

  • RC

    I think you’ll find that security of the app isn’t the main issue and that talking about it is an attempt to convince people Boston Properties has the best interests of Reston at heart. It doesn’t. This whole notion of paid parking in RTC is about nothing but sheer greed. It isn’t necessary, it isn’t right, and it is sure to hurt merchants and residents alike.

    • Edward Calvert

      We hold the power . They need us more than we need them !

  • Waitwhat

    So, you’re still wanting to inconvenience your source of income. I don’t get it.

  • Why do you bother?


  • 30yearsinreston

    What a load of self serving twaddle
    PCI security does not guarantee hacking of credit card numbers
    The spyware features characterized as ‘conveient’ dont have the ability to opt out

  • John

    BP is pulling the wool over people’s eyes. BP will monetize all the personal information collected in the app. They can do it legally and they will. They can also track everyone that has the app using bluetooth technology. The app is dangerous and you would be dumb to to install it.

  • John

    Livesafe will be used to profile people. RTC security will now go around profiling people based on faulty data from Livesafe. The app is a total and complete fail.

  • John

    Notice how BP doesn’t mention anything about the app using bluetooth technology. They only mention the app using GPS. When you install the app it says it will be using bluetooth technology. BP can’t even keep their story. The app uses very intrusive blue tooth technology to spy on people using the app.

    • Local Privacy Advocate

      Agreed! Bluetooth is one of the least secure technologies on the market. It is very convenient for location-based applications, but extremely easy to hack.

  • John Archer

    These are lies! The permissions are not “optional.” With difficulty, one might be able to “opt out,” but most won’t know how to do that! The DEFAULT is to install these permissions, with not even a “promise” from your outrageous company that you will not misuse them! (That would be largely empty given how you have handled this, but better than nothing).

    Then there are the other ridiculous “features” — having to know how long you need up front; no change from the cash machine; having to create an “account” just to use a credit card! Ridiculous for a “parking lot”!



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