By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
Anyone making long drives this summer will notice a new dimension to contemporary inequality: a widening gap between the users of automatic toll-paying devices and those who pay cash. The E-ZPass system, as it is called on the East Coast, seemed like idle gadgetry when it was introduced a decade ago. Drivers who acquired the passes had to nose their way across traffic to reach specially equipped tollbooths -- and slow to a crawl while the machinery worked its magic. But now the sensors are sophisticated enough for you to whiz past them. As more lanes are dedicated to E-ZPass, lines lengthen for the saps paying cash.
E-ZPass is one of many innovations that give you the option of trading a bit of privacy for a load of convenience. You can get deep discounts by ordering your books from Amazon.com or joining a supermarket 'club.' In return, you surrender information about your purchasing habits. Some people see a bait-and-switch here. Over time, the data you are required to hand over become more and more personal, and such handovers cease to be optional. Neato data gathering is making society less free and less human. The people who issue such warnings -- whether you call them paranoids or libertarians -- are among those you see stuck in the rippling heat, 73 cars away from the ''Cash Only'' sign at the Tappan Zee Bridge.