Opal card data handed over to NSW Police, Immigration

Transport for New South Wales has confirmed that in just six months, NSW Police has made 166 requests for data on the Opal travel card.

The New South Wales Police and the Department of Immigration have already been provided access to data recorded by the Opal transport smart card.

The Opal smart card was fully rolled out as of the end of last year across trains, ferries, and buses. The cards themselves do not store data, but Transport for New South Wales keeps personal information, trip history, and other data collected on passengers for seven years.

Uptake of the use of the card has been strong, with 270 million trips taken using Opal cards up until May 17, 2015.

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Transport for NSW has confirmed to ZDNet a report today that there have been 166 requests from NSW Police, and 15 requests from the Department of Immigration for personal data from the Opal card system since December 2014, with 57 disclosures. There were 19 disclosures related to offences, 32 disclosures on reasonable grounds for offences, and six requests related to missing persons.

ZDNet first revealed last year that Opal card data could be accessed by police without a warrant if there is reasonable evidence that an offence has occurred.

A spokesperson for Transport for NSW said that requests for data need to comply with relevant legislation.

"When Transport for NSW receives a request for information from a law enforcement agency, it will consider the request on the basis of the relevant legislation and Opal's privacy policy criteria," the spokesperson said.

"Transport for NSW has only released information for around 30 per cent of law enforcement requests. Information has only been released because it related to a missing person or to an offence that is known, or reasonably suspected, to have occurred."

When the Opal card was first rolled out, users would need to sign up on the Opal website and provide a name, an address, and payment information in order to receive the card. Opal cards can now be purchased anonymously from 2,000 retailers around NSW, but Transport for New South Wales still collects trip data for unregistered cards.

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