The University of Sydney today announced they had opted in to the rollout of Opal cards, despite earlier reports that students would not have access to the cards due to privacy concerns.
Both the university and Transport for NSW were cagey about the reason for the change. Whether, for instance, the information requested had in some sense changed.
A transport for NSW spokesperson did tell Honi that “Transport for NSW only collects the minimum amount of personal information necessary to identify students and validate their eligibility,” and that “this information includes student’s ID number, name and date of birth, as detailed in their university enrolment information.”
What they failed to mention is that in guidelines issued to tertiary institutions, it is made clear that Transport for NSW expects to be notified by institutions when their students become ineligible for concession cards.
This means that on top of the required personal information that Transport for NSW disclosed, the agency will also be given access to students’ enrolment information, presumably to yank away concession cards for student who drop below a ‘full time’ load of three subjects.
The Opal website asks students who wish to sign up for a card to “give consent” for their university to share details with Transport for NSW, however it does not make clear the extent of information students are handing over.
In December, Fairfax reported that USyd was “seeking to resolve the privacy considerations against the convenience of accessing the Opal card.” A spokesperson for the university could not comment on the reason for today’s backflip.
This is not the first time privacy concerns have been raised with the Opal system, many have voiced concerns that the data collected, including travel routes across transport networks is accessible by government bodies such as the police and Centrelink without a warrant.