Your Oyster Card Is Keeping Tabs On You – #WTFWednesday

oyster card surveillance

oyster card surveillance

London’s 500,000 public surveillance cameras aren’t the only tool that can be used to spy on you in the British capital. The Oyster card, London’s ubiquitous blue public transit card, keeps a digital track of which stations you visit and when. That’s not enough to pinpoint your exact location at any given time, but it’s more than enough to ruin a marriage if your spouse is the suspicious type. Did you tell your partner you were stuck at the office to cover up an illicit rendezvous across town? Better not let him/her near your Oyster card, or you’ve got some serious explaining to do.

Unrestricted Access

That’s because you don’t have to be you to access your station history. All you need is to take the card to a machine at the station or look up the serial number online, and you’ll find a record of all stations visited in the past 10 weeks. This measure isn’t safe from counter-espionage — checking the location history of a card online or at a machine in the station will send an SMS notification to the cardholder’s registered phone — but that’s probably not enough to stop a committed amateur detective. Pro tip for adulterers in the London area: ride a bike instead!

avoid surveillance. ride a bicycle.

Oyster Card Data Aids Police

As one might suspect, London’s transport authority Transport For London (TfL) also receives thousands of requests per year for Oyster card data from police investigators. Cardholders should be aware that such data is permitted for release under the Data Protection Act of 1998, but in each individual case the police are required to show that personal data will assist in the investigation. TfL’s official policy on data retention and release is available on its website.

This is #WTFWednesday, your weekly “someone is definitely spying on you” wake-up call. If someone you know takes the Tube to rendezvous with their illicit lover, you should definitely share this story with them!


ExpressVPN’s #WTFWednesday brings you weird, shocking, and creepy stories about data privacy—pulled straight from the news. Think your privacy is yours? Think again. You will feel uncomfortable. You will be outraged. You will think, “WTF?!”

Featured images: 1) Tomhannen, 2) Peter Griffin / Public Domain (image has been modified).


Like this post? Hate it? Read more horror stories about the invasion of your privacy in our #WTFWednesday archive. You know you can’t resist…