Buses Across US Are Quietly Adding Microphones to Record Passenger Conversations

Bus interior, Unsplash
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Public transit authorities are installing surveillance systems on buses that will give them the ability to record and store private conversations. Officials say that the systems will help improve the safety of passengers and drivers, but the system has privacy violation issues as audio could easily be coupled with facial recognition systems or audio recognition technology to identify passengers, according to an expert. Cities that have installed the systems or have taken steps to procure them include San Francisco, California; Eugene, Oregon; Traverse City, Michigan; Columbus, Ohio; Baltimore Maryland; Hartford, Connecticut; and Athens, Georgia. The attorney general of Maryland indicated that signs warning passengers of the surveillance would help combat any legal challenges, and Baltimore is currently installing the systems.

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. The systems are raising a number of privacy and security concerns.

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.

According to the product pamphlet for the RoadRecorder 7000 system made by SafetyVision (.pdf), “Remote connectivity to the RoadRecorder 7000 NVR can be established via the Gigabit Ethernet port or the built-in 3G modem. A robust software ecosystem including LiveTrax vehicle tracking and video streaming service combined with SafetyNet central management system allows authorized users to check health status, create custom alerts, track vehicles, automate event downloads and much more.”

The systems use cables or WiFi to pair audio conversations with camera images in order to produce synchronous recordings. Audio and video can be monitored in real-time, but are also stored onboard in blackbox-like devices, generally for 30 days, for later retrieval. Four to six cameras with mics are generally installed throughout a bus, including one near the driver and one on the exterior of the bus.

Cities that have installed the systems or have taken steps to procure them include San Francisco, California; Eugene, Oregon; Traverse City, Michigan; Columbus, Ohio; Baltimore Maryland; Hartford, Connecticut; and Athens, Georgia.

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Rob Polans
Rob Polans
4 months ago

Interesting, I’m glad I don’t use public transport.

wilma
wilma
4 months ago
Reply to  Rob Polans

No biggie. Everything you say and text via your mobile phone is recorded.

Boomer Lady
Boomer Lady
4 months ago
Reply to  Rob Polans

The next step is for the government to figure out how to film and record us in our cars.

grrlrocks
grrlrocks
4 months ago
Reply to  Boomer Lady

Don’t fret! That’s coming… And, will likely be piggy-backed off the breathalyzer & other crap into new cars that Congress & various States are desperately trying to get passed.

MJRaichyk
MJRaichyk
4 months ago

1) at the end of 2022, the 3G phones will go dead.. so what effect does that have on these RoadRecorders?? Will they be upgraded to 4G?? but won’t that interfere with ordinary phone users…

2) sitting in an area with 50 cell-phone-equivalent transmitters constantly checking for data around you, will do WHAT to the health of passengers

3) curiously, iirc, Columbus OH has a higher than OH avg ”refugee” type population, otherwise it would be expected to have been liberal Cleveland which is more like the rest of the liberal ”blue” states on the list..

Interesting article

A.N.
A.N.
4 months ago

The date on the referenced article is 2012.

NoMoreFakeNews
NoMoreFakeNews
4 months ago

Of course these are all communist blue states leading the way. It wont be long before the rino red state jump on the band wagon. In this case the bus. The lure of cash bribes is normally irresistible. The attorney general of Maryland indicated that “signs warning passengers of the surveillance would help combat any legal challenges” The MAG is a traitor. Garden variety communist criminal. That much we known. Invasion of privacy is a criminal offense. Sedition against us law, right to privacy enshrined in the constitution. Rather than give these commie politicians a free bus ride, when is… Read more »