New York cabbies set for world’s first GPS strike

IT professionals holidaying in New York next month might have difficulty finding a cab if 10,000 city taxi drivers go ahead with strikes called for 5 and 6 September.

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IT professionals holidaying in New York next month might have difficulty finding a cab if 10,000 city taxi drivers go ahead with strikes called for 5 and 6 September.

The action has been called by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, primarily to protest GPS systems being installed in their cabs.

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which has 10,000 cab drivers as members, has been threatening a strike for several weeks, and set the strike dates Thursday in a New York City press conference.

Bhairavi Desai, the Alliance’s Executive Director called the strike "a fight for dignity" because of concerns the GPS systems could be used to locate drivers and invade their privacy, especially when they are off-duty.

But the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission has played down the privacy concerns. It said the GPS data would be used to display a real-time map of the cab's location in the city, which would be useful to the taxi customer, and could be to help find a customer's lost property left in a cab.

The only data the commission will collect is information regarding the pick-up and drop-off locations, number of passengers and the fare. The commission said this data is already collected on paper.

The commission has assigned four technology integrators to provision cabs with the GPS systems through next January, as well as related systems for collecting fares with credit cards and providing music, news updates and advertising. Meanwhile, the commission has contractually prohibited the integrators from sharing information on the off-duty location of a cab with the agency.

The cab drivers’ alliance has said that even if the commission has set up such a prohibition, one of the technology integrators is active with taxi management groups. Both the commission and garages will have individual and aggregate data to use during negotiations over fares and the lease fees that drivers pay to companies to rent taxis, Desai claimed.

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