SMH: Student Opal card privacy concerns limit university participation →

PALLAVI SINGHAL, Sydney Morning Herald, 29th December 2014

Privacy concerns have stopped Sydney University from joining the rollout of student Opal concession cards, with new figures showing only five of 290 eligible tertiary institutions have signed on.

Institutions are required to “share eligibility information” with Transport for NSW before their students can begin using Opal card in February.

“The university is seeking to resolve the privacy considerations against the convenience of accessing the Opal card,” said a spokeswoman for the University of Sydney.

“It would need to provide student data. We are currently in discussion with the government [about this].”

She declined to comment on whether the university was likely to come on board by February.

“We’re actively working to resolve this as soon as possible,” she said.

The University of NSW, Notre Dame University, Macquarie University, Navitas English and the Australian Catholic University are the only institutions that have agreed to provide data to the Transport of NSW.

More than 250,000 students are expected to be eligible for concession travel in 2015, but will not be able to order an Opal card until their institution participates.

A spokeswoman for Transport for NSW said: “Tertiary institutions need to get their processes and IT systems ready to be able to share eligibility information.

“[The system] includes improved processing and assessment of a person’s entitlement to discounted fares.

“A very similar system has been introduced to support Gold Opal card customers who also need to prove eligibility at time of acquiring and carry their entitlement card along with their Gold Opal when they travel.”

Privacy has been a major issue for pensioners since the seniors Opal card became available in November, said Amelia Christie, Manager of Research and Advocacy at the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of NSW.

“Privacy is a big one for people because they’re not able to travel anonymously like they are with the paper tickets,” Ms Christie said.

“Every time they travel, people can access their information without a warrant. They don’t want to be watched by their council and other people.”

There are widespread concerns, including from NSW Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Coombs, about the ability of law enforcement agencies to access user information held under the Opal system without a warrant, Fairfax Media has previously reported.

Unregistered Opal cards are currently only available for adults.

The Opal student concession comes more than two years after the card first became available for adults on trial ferry routes in December 2012.

Opal cards for free transport to and from school are yet to be made available.

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