Thursday, December 13, 2012

File under WTF?

Public Buses Across Country Quietly Adding Microphones to Record Passenger Conversations

Transit authorities in cities across the country are quietly installing microphone-enabled surveillance systems on public buses that would give them the ability to record and store private conversations, according to documents obtained by a news outlet.

The systems are being installed in San Francisco, Baltimore, and other cities with funding from the Department of Homeland Security in some cases, according to the Daily, which obtained copies of contracts, procurement requests, specs and other documents.

The use of the equipment raises serious questions about eavesdropping without a warrant, particularly since recordings of passengers could be obtained and used by law enforcement agencies.

It also raises questions about security, since the IP audio-video systems can be accessed remotely via a built-in web server (.pdf), and can be combined with GPS data to track the movement of buses and passengers throughout the city.

Since, under California law, recording private conversations is illegal, San Francisco may want to re-think this.

1 comment:

Mark Byron said...

Would you have an assumption of privacy on a public bus? To the extent there are bus drivers and passengers, your conversations can be heard by others.

We are in under-charted territory, as courts aren't fully clear where the public-private line is, but this might be one that SF might be in the right on; whether they SHOULD be doing it is another matter, but I'd like my chances with the Supreme Court, although they'd likely have the 9th go against them first.

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