After a long wait, on Nov 28 2012, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) released ~2.97 gigabytes of data from inside the development of a GPS-based vehicle tracking system intended to introduce a vehicle tax – which would entail a great deal of data constantly collected by the government on the whereabouts and everyday patterns of the taxed vehicles. The source URL posted yesterday is ftp://ftp2.dot.state.mn.us/pub/outbound/chiefcounsel/Nate%20Hansen%20Email/ .
My friend Nathan Hansen made the request, pursuing a long-running story of the buildout of these taxation-tracking highway techs. (Disclosure: I did some design work for Hansen previously) The 2008 story I did: Now Searchable: The MnDOT NASCO NAFTA Superhighway Document Stash && Index of /June 2008 MN DOT Request/NASCO – Hansen Request && Index of /June 2008 MN DOT Request/June 2008 Request && Index of /DOT. A lot of these plans fell by the wayside – and a special Minnesota Intellidrive project and MBUF is the new plan. Related: Melissa Hill’s new blog allows you to “Track the Police” using public data && Private company hoarding license-plate data on US drivers. In May 2011 I did this story: Contracts for IntelliDrive MnDOT Military-Industrial/U of M plan to GPS-track all cars. This data dump continues the story.
There are a few important angles: comprehensive vehicle tracking data would be great for law enforcement, lawyers and big corporations to investigate everything in one’s life, including ‘retroactive surveillance’ of previous activities. However, the “fees” that would be imposed on rural Minnesotans who have to drive around a lot would be quite burdensome.
From a quick look at the PDFs we find internal discussion points about such impending scams as ‘carbon credit’ trading (a greenwashing Goldman Sachs sponsored futures bubble, as Matt Taibbi reported). Additionally Raytheon and SAIC have both been involved in this “Intellidrive” national-scale super-project. Also, just because the user data is processed behind Battelle’s firewall in no way signifies any level of security of personal information.
The main block of data posted is in huge Acrobat Reader X sized PDF files (1.1 and 1.6GB) . We have mirrored around the files and checked with md5hash in case the govt pulls any later. Acrobat Reader X is kinda bogging on these giant files — it loads all the emails in a slow email reader-like interface). Plenty of items like “concept of operations” or “MBUF CONOPS” is in there, a lot of stuff about consultants. We are just starting to peer at it, but Adobe is difficult to work with (a svelte 400MB app yay).
To get this batch of files yourself, if you have UNIX wget for mirroring:
I definitely recommend installing wget for things like this, where the files are listed in a directory for quick scraping.
DATA EXTRACTION BONUS CHALLENGE: To open the attachments on these emails, for OSX you have to use a program such as the free MailRaider: Download MailRaider for Mac – Read Outlook .msg files on your Mac. This is what you gotta do – in Acrobat, hit the paperclip on the side:
After first picking out the individual PDF attachments in Acrobat (the paperclip icon) you can get it to open in MailRaider. Hit the ‘Open’ button in that side panel. Hopefully this will launch MailRaider. In MailRaider, flip open the sidebar you can get it to work like so:
Here is the first PDF I was able to extract – Intell~1.pdf (2MB) – it is a “business sensitive” presentation by military-industrial contractor Battelle to MnDOT. Let’s have some choice excerpts including particularly how they use taxing people driving around rural-ish places like Wright County as a target for the mileage tax.