August 22, 2019

‘Dutch Rail discriminates against travellers when it comes to privacy’

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 5:22 pm

Michiel Jonker of Arnhem is a big defender of privacy. He is going to court to fight for his right to use an anonymised public transport chip card used for trams, subways, buses, and trolleys if you’re in Arnhem—a card that can also be used for trains.

One of the many issues is that only people who agree to give up their personal details as well as all their travel information can use a Dutch Rail discount on their card, giving them, in one instance, a 40% discount a year for an annual fee that I also pay, that keeps going up and that I don’t remember what it is.

Jonker uses an anonymised card, but it’s also not at all anonymous. “When you top up your card, the top-up doesn’t go onto your card, it goes to a sort of bank account owned by TransLink Systems [the company that makes the cards—Orangemaster]. The moment you top up your card, the company registers where and when you’ve done that.”

Jonker claims that the Dutch Data Protection Authority is too easily convinced by the arguments of Dutch Rail for registering information such as sex, email address and other personal details. Dutch Rail says that registering such information is necessary to combat fraud and ensure security, and yes, if a company can prove that such details are necessary to function then Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will back them up. However, if that cannot be proven, then Jonker has a point and Dutch Rail will have a problem.

Regardless, only travellers with one of the many non-anonymous types of cards can get travel discounts. Jonker explains that for decades, train staff checked paper tickets and that worked just fine.

Watch the video below in Dutch:

(Link: Omroep Gelderland; video: YouTube / Omroep Gelderland)

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July 16, 2016

Man has travel chip implanted in his hand

Filed under: Technology,Weird by Orangemaster @ 9:37 am

Tom van Oudenaaarden from Utrecht has has a public transport chip implanted in his right hand. The photos of it are nasty because the work has just been done, but the chip works fine, as this very short video proves. So far he has only used his implant to check in and out of ports, and has yet to encounter train staff who would need to check what would normally be a chip card in a handheld device to be sure he’s paid his fare.

And Van Oudenaaarden is no stranger to implants, piercings or tattoos either. He’s had a LED-lamp implanted in his arm and has implanted chips that will start his motorbike and car, open his laptop and his shop. The idea was to get rid of his wallet and a big bunch of keys and show what technology can do.

If you’re wondering, his chip is good to go until 2021. Listen to more about it in Dutch.

(Link:, Photo by Franklin Heijnen, some rights reserved)

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October 14, 2014

Crazy verdict: Dutch Rail may abolish paper tickets

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 8:44 am

lady-justice-chaoukiThe business court of The Hague has determined that Dutch Rail can abolish paper train tickets even though the law says a traveller has a right to an objective proof of the right to travel.

The court felt that the new electronic travel card system (OV Chipkaart) suffices because there are five places where you can confirm you have the right to travel. Arnoud Engelfriet lists them all:

  1. The display of the electronic gate at the time of checking in.
  2. The display of the vending machine.
  3. A paper print-out at the service desk.
  4. A transaction data listing on the Dutch Rail website.
  5. The display of the train conductor’s travel card reader.

Engelfriet and his commenters point out that there are numerous problems with this verdict.

  1. The electronic display only shows that you’ve checked in for a very short time, especially if somebody checks in a fraction of a second later (this happens a lot during rush hour).
  2. If you are in a rush, you are not going to stand in line at the vending machine or service desk.
  3. The Internet listings are only updated after a significant delay.
  4. Train conductors are “masters at being impossible to find”, according to Rikus Spithorst of travellers association ‘Voor Beter OV’ (‘for better public transport’). (Doesn’t that make train conductors hobbits?)

Basically this means that you either show up five minutes early for your daily commute to double check you are actually checked in or you pay a tax in the form of fines every time you fail to check in for whatever reason.

What bothers me is that in the case of a conflict between a traveller and Dutch Rail (and only the OV Chipkaart in place) travellers now have to rely completely on the antagonistic party to provide them with the proof that they have in fact travelled legally. Travelling without a valid ticket is a criminal offence, so why would the state make rules that make it practically impossible for a suspect to defend their innocence?

See also:

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August 18, 2013

Unclaimed public transport deposits a ‘goldmine’ for operators

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 4:23 pm

Telegraaf reports that public transport operators are making megabucks off of passengers that forget to swipe their public transport card (OV Chipkaart) when checking out.

The paper calls the thirty million euro that the companies pocket ‘a goldmine’. The OV Chipkaart system (basically a single-purpose electronic wallet) deducts a deposit when you check in and returns that money when you check out. That deposit is 4 euro for bus, subway and tram and ten euro for rail—twenty if you travel using an ‘anonymous’ card. According to Telegraaf, forgetting to check out happens approximately once every 100 trips.

The news follows hot on the revelation that the transport card seems to have led to considerable price hikes. RTL Nieuws reported two weeks ago that since the introduction of the card, fares have risen by as much as 48% (The Hague). Cities like Amsterdam and Groningen follow with rises of 38% and 20% respectively. For comparison, inflation in the Netherlands was around 4% during that period.

In July Dutchnews reported that rail users’ association Rover and travellers’ association ANWB had started a probe to find out exactly how much money passengers lose because of forfeiting their deposit. The results are expected in the autumn. Telegraaf does not say where it got its information, but instead cites ‘reliable sources’.

See also:

(Photo of public transport companies getting an ‘award’ for being the worst privacy offenders of 2010 by Sebastiaan ter Burg, some rights reserved)

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January 30, 2011

RFID readers sold out after news of hackable transport card broke

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 1:51 pm

Trouw reports that the SRR220A RFID card reader is sold out in at least one webshop after word got out that hacking the Dutch transport card is both cheap and easy. The card reader will let you top up the card without paying.

Volkskrant adds that another online store, i-Pos, has sold hundreds. “It’s a mad house here, the orders are coming in day and night,” General Manager Dirk van der Heijden told the paper.

Meanwhile, Trans Link Systems (TLS), the besieged company behind the ill-fated Dutch transport card, refuses to warn users who forgot to swipe the card on check-out, Webwereld reports. The result is that many travellers are ‘fined’ 4, 10 or 20 euro every time they forget to check out—the amount depends on the deposit the transport company charges when you check in.

Dutch parliament told TLS that it has to send forgetful passengers an e-mail upon detecting the error. According to TLS, detecting the problem is a “technological impossibility”. Webwereld readers were quick to point out that just a few days ago TLS was boasting about how easy it is to detect use of a fraudulently topped-up public transport chip card.

Asking for a restitution seems to be an arduous task as well. Only in 1 in 18 passengers go through the trouble.

According to, the province of Zuid-Holland has delayed the abandonment of paper bus tickets (the so-called Strippenkaart) due to the current problems with the transport card.

See also: Right to public transport refunds finite.

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