Op-Ed: RA’s Pool Pass Photo Requirement Is Outrageous

by RestonNow.com February 15, 2017 at 11:30 am 33 Comments

Lake Newport Pool/Credit: Mike CollinsThis is an op/ed submitted by Adam Huftalen, a Reston resident. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.

As we do each year, my wife and I paid our Reston Association assessment this week.

Typically, after we’ve paid our dues, we reflexively take the opportunity to purchase our annual pool and tennis passes — our family’s favorite RA benefit. This year, however, we were taken aback by an unsettling new RA requirement that would-be pool-goers provide RA with digital photos of each family member, including children, to be stored in an RA database. The logic, as I learned after a call to RA, is that the database would allow RA employees to retrieve photos on demand to visually verify paid-up pool and tennis users.

RA exercises considerable authority to impose on its members in the name of cluster design uniformity or infrastructural upgrading, and does so often at great expense and questionable necessity. This new imposition, however, is akin to an inverse Reston Association photo ID. It is an unnecessary, perturbing and frankly outrageous invasion of personal privacy.

Events of the past year have unequivocally illustrated that we live in an era of digital uncertainty, one in which we struggle with vexing issues like hacking and identity theft. Sadly, no amount of precautionary behavior can be air-tight. But for those of us who go out of our way to protect our privacy online, this needless invitation of additional risk, especially for children, is unconscionable.

Some may argue that thousands of RA members already willingly provide digital images of themselves either on social media or for health club memberships. But to suggest that RA’s new requirement is analogous to making a personal choice about posting on Facebook or joining a gym is mistaken.

For one thing, choosing to post on social media or join a gym with a photo requirement is just that, a choice. RA members have no choice to pay their annual assessment, lest a lien be placed on their property. While voluntarily purchasing the additional pool passes is also a choice, suggesting that this is the same as the scenarios above also misses the point.

Aquatics and tennis represent roughly 13 percent of RA’s total expenses. Since a portion of each RA member’s required annual assessment is used to maintain pools and tennis courts, RA members make compulsory, not just voluntary, payments for their pools and tennis courts. Because of these compulsory payments alone, we deserve access to those facilities. The additional user fee for passes is reasonable, but making access to passes contingent on providing RA with a digital photo of one’s children is an unreasonable and startling invasion of privacy.

I can certainly appreciate the desire for RA to ensure that only those who have purchased a pool pass can use Reston’s pools, but surely there must be a better way of achieving that without invading the privacy of children. One alternative could be to require adult pool and tennis users to present a picture ID, such as a driver’s license, when signing into use those facilities. Under the circumstances, it’s unclear how such a simple solution could have been cast aside before moving forward as proposed.

Moreover, one need only consider the trouble with which multinational corporations and even the United States Government (each with far deeper pockets than RA) have struggled to secure customer or employee personal information to become anxious about RA’s ability to secure similar information. And this says nothing of the questionable cost involved with equipping seasonal employees with the technology necessary to access the proposed photo database; a cost that will no doubt be borne by assessment-paying RA members in 2018.

Plainly speaking, I consider this proposal to be a deeply disturbing invasion of privacy. I not only question the wisdom and judgment of requiring children’s photos to be placed in a RA database for the purposes of using a community pool, but also the legal authority with which RA could pursue such a requirement. One must wonder if the RA Board has considered the risk and likely consequences of a security breach.

Each year, my family proudly pays our RA assessment knowing that we generally get an excellent return on investment for the money we contribute. Unfortunately, this ill-conceived new requirement places an unwelcome invasion of privacy between my family and our desire to take advantage of RA’s most attractive member benefit: its pools and tennis courts. Worse still, it exhibits a clear and unacceptable disregard for personal privacy on the part of the RA Board.

I strongly encourage the Board to reconsider this new rule before the 2017 pool season begins.

Adam Huftalen

Reston, VA

  • 30yearsinreston

    Typical RA
    Put in a complicated ‘solution’ that only enriches rent seekers like their IT vendor when a simple, non technical,, no cost approach will do
    Those who are pushing this need to be fired
    I don’t want any more extra money spent on their IT vendor


    Ill never forget the time growing up in Reston I was playing tennis with my buds and an INSANE tiny Asian man (heavy asian accent) came up to us furiously demanding to see our RA passes. I had left mine at the house and only had my ID that had my parents Reston Address. I pretty much told the guy to go pound sand (or maybe I said something like, “You can F OFF now”). And the guy ENRAGED, started threatening to beat me with his tennis racket, I stood there, looked him square in the eyes and didn’t budge, even after he swung the racket pretty close to my head. He eventually slammed down the racket on the court and sped off in a Mercedes Wagon. I was 16, this man was in his 40s. Typical example of entitled Northern Virginia Trash.

    • EADGBE

      Just to be clear on the point of this story. Having the RA and RA passes does NOTHING to help the residents of this community.

      • Nah

        Passes are fine. I don’t want people using the pool if they haven’t paid for a pass. But there was no problem with the existing system so this “fix” was not needed.

        • Mike M

          But isn’t that RAs job? Fix that which needn’t fixing?

          • The Constitutionalist

            Like we said in the Corps, if it ain’t broken, fix it till it is.

    • Mike M

      Reston’s tennis “racket” is notoriously “entitled.” They scheme constantly for ways to get you to pay their way, then keep you from using those resources.

      That’s it! I am going to start taking nominations for the Worst of Reston! I’ll nominate the Reston Tennis mafia first!

      Any other nominations?

      • cRAzy

        OK, how bout the totally out of control Reston Soccer Mafia?

      • 30yearsinreston

        The DRB

  • kbikeva

    It might be worthwhile assessing the magnitude of the problem. How do we know people are using other people’s passes? Is it a problem mainly for adults? Or is it the youth members who pass the passes around? If adults, the solution of requring photos for adults makes sense. If it’s a youth problem, perhaps require it of those who are old enough to enter the pool facilities without a parent or guardian? There might be a middle ground solution that satisfies and balances privacy vs. fraud. Back in our ‘pool days’ I heard many of my neighbors discuss borrowing each other’s passes in order to take extra visitors with them. That’s when the guest pass was expensive and there was no day pass option. I do understand your concerns. As residents though, we already pay the full freight for our paths which many, many non-residents use, and have no way to recover the cost. The RA is under pressure to be good stewards and this is one way they are trying to do so.

    • 30yearsinreston

      No need to come up with lots of complicated reasons
      The simple fact is that R A is incapable of thinking through consequences and apply simple logic
      I.e the staff and management are stupid or lazy

    • Heh

      If your neighbor borrows your pass, then you can’t use it. Your pass, which is paid for, is being used by one person at a time. Why is this a problem?

      There should at least be an opt-out for this nonsensical “requirement”.

    • Mike M

      Sorry, but I am going to guess that you work for or close to government. Your logic is familiar to me. But the first question you have to ask is whether there is a problem. That is not at all clear. Secondly, is greater complexity and higher cost the solution. The answer to this questions should generally be no. Any decision maker should be biased against falling into these traps because they are what drives costs and burdens higher.

  • Cubsfan6116

    I’ve visited members-only clubs (country clubs, etc.) with family and friends in places throughout the County. Many simply require you provide your name, address, and signature in lieu of a pass (or if you’ve forgotten your pass). My guess is that they don’t want a bunch of guests or something, but its not clear why pictures are needed. Either way, I can imagine about 100 lost passes a week among the kids. How much will it cost to replace these? Keep it simple. C’mon now.

  • The Constitutionalist

    No guys, listen, they only want pictures of your children in their bathing-suits for advertising reasons. That’s all, it’s not weird.


  • Amy Sue

    Absolutely agree. I’m also concerned with how much RA is spending to implement this system. Particularly because RA will be cutting pool hours AGAIN this year due to supposed budget overruns.

    • 30yearsinreston

      The budget overruns are handouts to IT vendors

  • Reston Resident

    We should all send a picture of a teddy bear (or whatever). What would RA do? Not let us in?

    • The Constitutionalist

      It depends, is that what your child identifies as? If so, and they didn’t let you in, you could probably take legal action.

  • Goyo Gallardo

    For years I have dutifully purchased aspirational swim passes — I aspire to use them but rarely do so. Last year I didn’t go to a Reston Association pool at all. This year the added hassle (etc) of the photo requirement tipped me over to not purchasing a pool pass at all. I suspect that I am not the only one who will make that decision. If there are significantly fewer pool passes sold, what will RA conclude? Probably not that the photo requirement drove residents away (for reasons discussed in these comments.) More likely they will conclude that those who were buying passes for use by others were driven off, thus vindicating their decision. To me the thinking that led to the photo requirement is not so much an invasion of privacy as it is an assault on the Reston tradition of community.

    • 30yearsinreston

      It’s another screw up by RA
      Did you expect anything else ?

    • Ha

      ” If there are significantly fewer pool passes sold, what will RA conclude?”

      They will conclude they need to raise pool pass fees and the RA dues because revenue, because Tetra, and because eff you.

      • The Constitutionalist

        Learning has occurred!

  • Robert Mowbray

    Is there an alternative for those of us who do not have electronic cameras?

    • 30yearsinreston


    • Mike M

      Robert, perhaps you just aren’t “elite” enough for these destinations. 😉

  • Tony

    You want pictures? I got lots of pictures!

  • 30yearsinreston

    Is this another project implemented by the ‘Director of Projects’

  • Close the pools then.

    I think the trade and use of pool passes for unintended purposes is actually quite low. It begs the question why we cannot check into a pool with a driver license and do away with all the passes.

    Most of the time pool goers are regulars and the few odd ones get noticed. RA should not be worried about pool passes for that reason.

    The most worrisome aspect of RA pools are scammers; an older lady tried to fake an accident slipping on the pool deck, but apparently had a change of heart when the lifeguard disputed her story. These kind of incidents could cost RA millions.

    I am also worried about the Lake House, that is a liability issue waiting to happen.

  • Arielle in NoVA

    I don’t understand why the author is so upset about a photo ID, and stored digitally. When I was a kid and got a RHOA (Reston Homeowners’ Association) pool/tennis pass, they took our photo. Digital photos didn’t exist then, not really. Is the objection that the photo is being stored on a computer so that the ID can be reprinted? Because RA employees can look up someone’s photo, to make sure that the ID-holder is the one using the ID? Because kids’ photos are being taken in the first place? Because the customer is the one being asked to provide the photos?

    • Rational Reston

      I think the concern is very clear in the last line of the second paragraph “I learned after a call to RA, is that the database would allow RA employees to retrieve photos on demand to visually verify paid-up pool and tennis users.”

      Followed by the fourth paragraph:
      “Events of the past year have unequivocally illustrated that we live in an era of digital uncertainty, one in which we struggle with vexing issues like hacking and identity theft. Sadly, no amount of precautionary behavior can be air-tight. But for those of us who go out of our way to protect our privacy online, this needless invitation of additional risk, especially for children, is unconscionable.”

      Do we trust RA with even more personal information? Is that information critical to RA’s operations? Can RA adequately protect that information? What else can/will RA do with that information? Was RA sold another solution that they need a problem to solve so they can use it?

      RA has again needlessly opened up a can of worms.

  • John M

    I’ve lived in Reston for 35 years. Back in the early 80’s all pool passes had your picture on them. The passes also costs much more than they do now. Who cares if your picture is on there? BTW… I know people that don’t use their passes and give them to friends outside of Reston. All of us get cheated when this happens. I don’t like RA at all but having a picture on a pass isn’t an invasion of privacy. If you don’t want your picture on it don’t get the passes.

    • Rational Reston

      I think you’ve missed the point, the issue is that they’re for some RA database so they can verify (at likely some considerable cost).

      An old fashioned photo card like you mentioned would also solve the problem at a lower cost, as well as offer less privacy concerns.


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