Taxi drivers here in New York have threatened to go on strike next month unless the city halts plans to require that GPS (Global Positioning System technology) be installed in the city's 13,000 cabs by early 2008.
Members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents about 8,400 drivers, are worried that their bosses will track their whereabouts even when they are off-duty, according to statements from six drivers and Executive Director Bhairavi Desai.
At a press conference late last month, driver Lea Acey said a GPS is "like an ankle bracelet they put on criminals". The alliance plans to announce a strike date in mid-August.
The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission last week said that it does not plan to change the schedule for implementing the Technology Enhancements Service Project, which would let passengers pay fares via credit cards, eliminate some paper records and let riders watch the taxi's route in real time on a screen.
Under the plan, all taxicab owners must sign contracts with one of four approved technology vendors - Creative Mobile Technologies LLC, Digital Dispatch Systems, Taxi Technology or VeriFone Transportation Systems - this month and have the systems installed between October 1 and January 31.
"It's reasonable for an employer to deploy GPS," said Craig Mathias, an analyst at Farpoint Group in Ashland, who has consulted on GPS projects.
"This is not 1984 or tracking citizens," he said. "It is tracking people with objects, and it will improve efficiency."
At the same time, Mathias said he understands the concerns. "People are rightly worried about Big Brother," he said. "It should not be used unless consent is given."