Quite possibly the finest thing to happen to the NYC Subway system since they replaced all the 1/9 cars with sliced bread.

A MetroCard is essentially a substitute for the old, everyday tokens - turning your previously hohum existence into an explosion of post-modern giddiness as you swipe and swipe and swipe your way to ride after ride of blistering hot stations and bumpy, jolting, crowded, smelly rides while you hope the girl/boy/man/woman eating the egg salad next to you doesn't have an accident.

If you're a dolt, the fare hasn't changed one bit for you, but if you're a savvy consumer you quickly and enthusiastically joined the ranks of the unlimited riders, paying $17 for 7 days or $63 for 30. Even the tourists win big here in The Big Apple with the MetroCard FunPass - an exciting one day extravaganza of sites and sounds.

Perhaps most importantly, an unlimited ride MetroCard offers the budding capitalist the opportunity to stand around the turn styles and sell rides for $1 a pop. It might not seem like much to you now, considering the cards can't be used for a decent bit of time after their last use, but hey - prostitute your piece of plastic 17 times a week and that baby's FREE..

There's a fairly simple way to reduce the ability of Big Brother to track you using your metrocard. Purchase it with cash from a vending machine, and do your best to avoid looking at any security cameras nearby. If you were really paranoid, you could always buy three or four and randomly select which one to use whenever you get on the train...I guarantee, trying to correlate use patterns would be completely pointless given the data. Add a different-length delay between use each time (and if you're commuting, even a minute or so helps) and you're totally anonymous.

Now it goes without saying that you shouldn't let Them have your Metrocard or even be able to grab and examine it! When it's expired, destroy it; if you think anyone's managed to read it, destroy it; if you're feeling particularly paranoid that day, destroy it.

Being a blank is possible in the age of surveillance. It just takes some thought and effort. Jam the system!

I used to work for the company that made the Metrocard system. Here are some facts for you.

  • With the sheer volume of passengers, your card will be buried in the data pile.

  • It is possible, however, that if someone wanted to track you, they could. This would take an astounding volume of man-hours and a lot of computer time. It's cheaper to have some schmuck tail you or bug your shoe. (You did check your left shoe today, didn't you?)

  • Your normal Metrocard is not tied to a name. Buy three with cash, and use them randomly if you're uber-paranoid.

  • Contactless smart cards can be tied to a name, depending on how they set the system up. Right now, it is not, but it can be. Normally contactless smart cards are sold by actual people. Stick to the polyester mag-stripers to keep Them from tracking you.

  • 98% of the folks using the Metrocard don't give two rat turds worth of concern for the possibility of being tracked.

  • The 2% who have cause to worry should look over their shoulder, check their shoes and sweep for bugs daily, because if one of Them wants to track you, it won't be by the use of a Metrocard. Who cares that you go from one station to another? It's your final destination that they're interested in.

  • When the Station Computer uploads the revenue, traffic, and status data collected from the station equipment to the Central Computer, the only thing that concerns the paranoid passenger is that only the card identification and transaction amount is recorded. This way, you couldn't take a Metrocard worth $20, ride for a day and then try to get reimbursed the $20. It is an anti-fraud system only, not a tracking device. The only way someone will even know what information is on the card is to swipe it on a porta-reader. If someone does that, then you can be paranoid and get a new one. Even better, give it to a bum and have Them chase him.

Honestly, it's not worth the time and effort. You can build a blip tracker for three bucks in parts, so why bother spending big bucks just to track you from train to train to bus? The system for anti-fraud is amazing, and I can see why it hasn't been 0Wn3d yet.

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