Homeland Security Pays San Francisco To Buy Surveillance Equipment That Records Video AND Audio On City Buses

from the surveillance-society dept

We all know that law enforcement has been regularly expanding its ability to spy on people at every turn, especially with surveillance cameras installed all over the place. But it still seems a bit shocking to find out that many municipalities are installing systems on public buses that record both audio and video of everyone on the bus -- including in San Francisco. That doesn't just seem like overkill, it raises significant legal questions. California -- for better or for worse (and I'd argue, for worse) is a two party consent state when it comes to recording, meaning everyone has to know they're being recorded. So it seems like recording without getting consent should be seen as an illegal, warrantless form of wiretapping. Even more troubling: the reason San Francisco is doing this upgrade? The Department of Homeland Security paid them to do it. It gave them a grant covering the entire cost. Is Homeland Security really worried about drunks getting into a brawl on the bus? Or do they see this as an opportunity to do significantly more involved surveillance? The whole program seems pretty troubling, and yet more and more places are adding the devices, with little to no public recognition.


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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 3:13am

    if they get away with doing it here, unchallenged, (and how can you challenge what you dont know about?) they can use it as a precedent and do the same wherever else they like

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 3:18am

    As they haven't caught any terrorists yet they wer5e obviously looking in the wrong place. So they need to install cameras everywhere, and record every conversation.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 11:37am

      Re:

      This is, in a manner of speaking, somewhat true. The difference is, they aren't really looking for the Al-Queda style terrorist. Given that thousands of years of history have shown that all governments inevitably gravitate towards tyranny, it is important for such governments increasingly headed in that direction to identify potential resistance to that sort of shift (the next generation George Washingtons, Thomas Jeffersons, and Benjamin Franklins as the case may be).

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 2:17am

        Re: Re:

        I am well aware of that. becuase of what a EU politicoan said abour the ACTA protests.

        Marielle Gallo who chaired one of the committees, and supports the treaty, made some interesting comments over this :-
        "We're supposed to represent citizens, but since they are busy with other things, we are supposed to think for them!"
        and
        "It's not only a disinformation campaign. It's a soft form of terrorism that frightens people. People are being scared. It's a fantasy. ACTA has become a fantasy. And that, that's propagated by the whole Internet network."

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 3:31am

    Oh wise up. This is in public places where you can have no expectation of privacy. If this were in your house, it would be cause for comment.

    \blah blah blah

     

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      snidely (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 4:13am

      Re:

      I agree. How is this different than walking into 7-11 or pretty much any other building? All the SF DOT has to do is slap a small sticker on the bus window that says "You are being filmed."

       

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        ltlw0lf (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 6:51am

        Re: Re:

        I agree. How is this different than walking into 7-11 or pretty much any other building? All the SF DOT has to do is slap a small sticker on the bus window that says "You are being filmed."

        Filmed is fine. There is, after all, no expectation of privacy. However, I believe the law is quite a bit more against eavesdropping on conversations.

        With filming, you only see what is happening in front of the camera, at that particular time. Unless you are an idiot, it is really difficult to do something that will incriminate yourself. On the other hand, conversations usually have an element to them that may be mistaken without context. It is entirely possible that you can be having a conversation that if taken out of context could incriminate you. ("Man, I killed last night at the bowling alley...")

         

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        nasch (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 9:27am

        Re: Re:

        All the SF DOT has to do is slap a small sticker on the bus window that says "You are being filmed."

        Actually it needs to at least specify that audio is being recorded. I'm not sure if even that would be enough since I'm not familiar with the California recording law. Apparently it worked in Maryland:

        "In 2009, transit officials in Baltimore, Maryland, backed down briefly from plans to install microphones in buses in that city after civil liberties groups complained that the systems would violate wiretapping laws and constitutional protections against illegal search and seizure. Transit authorities then asked the stateís attorney general to weigh-in on whether the systems violated wiretapping laws. After the attorney general indicated that signs warning passengers of the surveillance would help combat any legal challenges, transit officials pressed forward with their plans last month and announced the installation of an audio recording system on 10 public buses. The city plans to roll out the system on at least 340 additional buses."

         

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      Gert-Jan, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 4:22am

      Re:

      > This is in public places where you can have no expectation of privacy

      It is silly to put it like that. Of course there is an expectation of privacy, but each and every time the discussion is what the proper expectation should be!

      For example, I can expect the contents of my wallet to stay private, as long as I don't open my wallet in public.

      A relevant question here is, if I am in the back of a bus with a friend, and the only person in the bus in the driver, then should I expect our "low voice" conversation to be private?

      If I take my smartphone and browse through my list of contact, should I expect this list of contacts to stay private?

      If I put on my headphones and listen to a training course for the English language, should I expect this fact to stay private?

      Obviously a move like this lowers the expectations the generic public can have. It is a valid question whether we - the public - want this. But is this question being asked?

       

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      Just Another Limey (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 4:22am

      Itís not about wisdom, itís about behaviour

      Astonishing.

      Would be what goes on in a public toilets fair game? Maybe in a primary school?

      What about the changing rooms of stores, or sports centres?

      Is it acceptable to look up a woman's skirt if she's in a public area?

      And just how close can you put your ear to the door of the confessional, or the doctors room?

      At some time or another, authorities, or people in authority have seen no problem with breaching an expectation of privacy in these areas. This is sadly another example of poor behaviour on the part of those who ought to know better.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 5:13am

        Re: Itís not about wisdom, itís about behaviour

        Here we actually have surveillance cameras at some public toilets. Not showing the actual toilet though and not recording sound. The reasoning is to avoid vandalism (and that is actually a fair point).

        Cameras in busses are standard equipment.

        The only thing new would be the sound recording. Not sure that changes much to be honest. Either you expect to be watched or you don't. In this case, it is something that seems unnecessary, but the privacy is already breached. The difference between muted surveillance and surveillance based on temperature sensors, artificial nose, audio and video with infrared and nightvision, combined with a directional microphone; is small.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 5:27am

          Re: Re: Itís not about wisdom, itís about behaviour

          "The reasoning is to avoid vandalism (and that is actually a fair point)."


          Riiiiight - uh huh

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 4:26am

      Re:

      Swwwwwweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!!!

      My troll impression had you all fooled.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 4:43am

      Re:

      When a bus is met by a swat squad because two people were discussing a role playing game the public may wake up to just how dangerous this agency is.

       

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        art guerrilla (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 10:57am

        Re: Re:

        ...or will the powers that be spin it (ie lie) to assert that all RPG people are terrorists ? ? ?
        c'mon, you know the drill...

        art guerrilla
        aka ann archy
        eof

         

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      ldne, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 11:00am

      Re:

      Wise up yourself and stop being an idiot, there is no reason to tolerate a surveillance state, at all.

       

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      Anonymous, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 9:06am

      Re:

      You are an idiot.

      A 7-11 is not a public space. It's a private establishment. They can do what they want.

      Privacy is the right to say no.

      You have privacy for any information that cannot be reasonably acquired by the unaided eye or ear.

      Also it refers to action without warrant as well.

      Please get a clue.

       

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        nasch (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 1:32pm

        Re: Re:

        A 7-11 is not a public space. It's a private establishment.

        It is both a private business and a public place. For the purposes of this discussion it's about expectation of privacy.

        "Business premises. You have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your office, so long as itís not open to the public. But if there is a part of your office where the public is allowed, like a reception area in the front, and if a police officer enters that part of the office as any other member of the public is allowed to, it is not a search for the officer to look at objects in plain view or listen to conversations there. Thatís because youíve knowingly exposed that part of your office to the public. However, if the officer does not stay in that portion of the premises that is open to the public ó if he starts opening file cabinets or tries to go to private offices in the back without an invitation ó then his conduct becomes a search requiring a search warrant...

        Public places. It may sound obvious, but you have little to no privacy when you are in public. When you are in a public place ó whether walking down the sidewalk, shopping in a store, sitting in a restaurant or in the park ó your actions, movements, and conversations are knowingly exposed to the public. That means the police can follow you around in public and observe your activities, see what you are carrying or to whom you are talking, sit next to you or behind you and listen to your conversations ó all without a warrant." (emphasis added)

        From https://ssd.eff.org/your-computer/govt/privacy

         

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          Anonymous, Dec 14th, 2012 @ 12:11am

          Re: Re: Re:

          It's cute the way you ignore the fact that they are /changing/ the environment into something more than public by adding cameras and microphones.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 4:14am

    I'm starting to get the feeling they knew they were going to expand to buses and subways and such every since they had to choose the name for their agency. That's why they didn't call it Airline Security Agency or something, and instead used "Transportation". They wanted to do this from day one. Unbelievable. This looks like it's about to get a lot worse. I'm never setting foot in US until they abolish TSA.

     

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      gorehound (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 5:20am

      Re:

      I am Patiently waiting for the 2ND American Revolution.Coming sometime this Century this Nation will be going down.
      Already is turning into a Police State taking these Baby Steps one by one eroding our Rights.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 4:42am

    Only the "authorities" are allowed to whine about wiretapping being a crime in a two party state because, obviously, they are allowed to do whatever they please and you plebes are required by law to tow the line.

     

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    The Real Michael, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 4:53am

    It's a slow, steady coup by the government until they control all movement within the country. And the worst part is that American citizens in TSA uniforms are going along with the scheme.

    When do the concentration camps open for business?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 5:31am

      Re:

      "When do the concentration camps open for business?"

      Already have - except they are called "For Profit Prisons". They are a convenient source of slave labor and allows the benefits of outsourcing without the added cost and this is all on the taxpayers' dime, which of course equals double plus good.

       

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        The Real Michael, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 7:42am

        Re: Re:

        Yes, I'm aware of their existence, but I was referring to full-blown gulags. Even so, you're absolutely right. Our legal system creates and fosters "criminals" so as to be detained in these faux-prisons, solely for the financial benefit of those at the top of the ladder. Big crime equals big business.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 5:27am

    Silly Mike, it's only illegal wiretapping if the little guy does it with his/her cell phone. If the big government or a big corporation does it then it's perfectly reasonable and legal... because they're bigger and more trustworthy, duh!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 6:48am

    Public place, no expectation of privacy. The real question here is "why the fuck is our tax money being spent on this?" Are terrorists attacks being plotted on buses? Common sense says "no."

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 9:57am

      Re:

      How would it prevent anything anyway by anyone?

      The mall shooting the other day and the movie opening shooting of a few months ago come to mind. Survelliance didn't help any of those victims.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 10:06am

        Re: Re:

        All surveillance does is make it easier to catch and prosecute criminal after a crime has been committed. This is measurable for management statistics, while crime prevention because of police patrols is not. Therefore spending money on surveillance equipment does more to improve the statistics that employing more patrol officers.

         

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        nasch (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 12:01pm

        Re: Re:

        Not to defend the surveillance society, but the idea is that if people know there are cameras, they won't commit crimes there. Two problems are that I suspect that doesn't pan out as hoped, and it may just shift crime to other places. So then you get like the UK where they try to put cameras EVERYWHERE. No thank you.

         

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      nasch (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 11:26am

      Re:

      Public place, no expectation of privacy.

      Video, photos, yes. But state law says you must have permission to record audio, public place or not.

       

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    Mr. Applegate, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 7:19am

    HAL = "Homeland security, Administration and Law enforcement"

    "HAL: Let me put it this way, Mr. Amor. The Department of Homeland Security is the most reliable agency ever created. No Homeland Security employee has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error. "

    Later...

    "HAL: Just what do you think you're doing, Dave?"

    then...

    "HAL: I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you. "

    ...

     

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    Gwiz (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 7:43am

    Creepy

    The Department of Homeland Security paid them to do it. It gave them a grant covering the entire cost.

    DHS also funded a creepy system in my area (also an all-party consent state) where the street lights watch you:

    http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2011/10/23/225836/

    InfoWars describes what these creepy systems can actually do:

    http://www.infowars.com/new-street-lights-to-have-homeland-security-applications/

     

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    James, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 7:51am

    Not a change to the status quo

    As a long time public transit rider in California, this does not represent a significant change in the status quo. Every transit agency I've had the chance to ride with has had a sign saying that they may be recording video and/or audio of anything occurring while in the vehicle.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 8:20am

    I'm a bit confused

    little mikee;

    How is it that you seem to think that when I am out in public I have no right to privacy. People can record my every move with a video camera and you say that's perfectly acceptable.

    Yet this is EXACTLY the same thing, they are simply video taping what happens inside of a Bus which is PUBLIC transportation, and you cry like the little baby you are about how wrong it is..

    Aren't being kinda hypocritical??? OH wait, you twist your stories around to make whatever point your agenda calls for.... OH I forgot you have so many articles about how other new sorces twist words around... OH I forget this little mikee we are talking about

     

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      The Real Michael, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 8:46am

      Re: I'm a bit confused

      Here's the key difference: When the public records in public, they're doing it at their own expense with equipment they paid for. When the government installs video/audio recording equipment into buses and such, that's also being funded on the taxpayer's dime.

       

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        Chosen Reject (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 11:39am

        Re: Re: I'm a bit confused

        I don't care who funds it. Here's the difference: One is a powerful entity that can screw over your life, send you to prison, impose large fines, take away everything you have, etc; the other is not.

         

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          Suzanne Lainson (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 1:14pm

          Re: Re: Re: I'm a bit confused

          Here's the difference: One is a powerful entity that can screw over your life, send you to prison, impose large fines, take away everything you have, etc; the other is not.

          If private companies are collecting the data and if the government will pay good money to get it, then the private companies are likely to provide it. The government is just another customer.

           

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            Suzanne Lainson (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 1:19pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm a bit confused

            Stop and think about it. We have a system where many prisons are privately run. We have private companies collecting data on everyone.

            We have corporations lobbying and influencing politicians.

            What, exactly, is "public" about any of this?

             

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          The Real Michael, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 3:46pm

          Re: Re: Re: I'm a bit confused

          I'm with you 100%, but my point was that they're throwing American tax dollars at the expansion of the surveillance state. It would be foolish to ignore this.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 10:43am

      Re: I'm a bit confused

      If a member of the public catches you on film, they take no action unless you are obviously committing a crime. When the security services do it,, you are at risk of false association, such as giving direction to a stranger, who goes on to rob a bank in a neighboring town, and the swat squad comes through your front door.

       

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      nasch (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 11:30am

      Re: I'm a bit confused

      Yet this is EXACTLY the same thing

      It may sound silly, but the difference is audio vs. video. They can take video in a public place, but state law forbids recording audio of someone without their knowledge (in the absence of a warrant).

       

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    policestate, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 8:55am

    Our town has been approving and upgrading the little police department with goodies from Homeland Security for years now. The police are never questioned about why they are getting things like rapid scan license plate readers (in a sleepy town with very little crime). No one wants to question the police, and these purchases are approved unanimously.

    It's "free" and the police asked for it, so it must be for our safety, right?

    Homeland Security has been militarizing police departments for years, and tying them in to data sharing schemes that do almost nothing to stop local crimes, nothing to stop the terrorists they say are everywhere, and everything to help spy on Americans.

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 9:35am

    A company is making money

    As someone pointed out about the for-profit prisons, don't assume everything that is done by the government is done for the benefit of government. It is quite likely a government contractor stands to benefit from whatever the government purchases.

    And also, keep in mind that invasion of privacy is an issue with private companies, too. Don't focus on government without also focusing on what private companies are doing with our lives and making money with it, too.

    I don't want government privacy issues to be used as a way to direct people's attentions away from private company privacy issues.

     

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 9:49am

      Re: A company is making money

      More to the point. Everything we do is being monitored or will be monitored. Companies want to know where we shop in stores, what we look at, etc. If it is possible for companies to follow us in everything we do and link it to everything else we do, they will.

      Whether by government paying private companies monitoring us, or by private companies monitoring us on their own, it is being done.

       

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 10:08am

      Re: A company is making money

      Here's a scenario which I'm sure is already going on. A company collects as much data on people as possible. It then allows companies to compare potential hires against that data to screen out undesirables. It's a "service" made available for a fee. All private. No government involved.

       

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 10:26am

      Re: A company is making money

      Funny. I was just reading this. It's being cited to illustrate the benefits of technology for a for-profit business. Yes, I know: If a private company does it, it's good. If the government does it, it's bad.

      sidewinder.fm: Music Festivals Are Ripe for Hacking: "Most organizers are making wristbands with RFID embedded in them that you canít remove until the event is over. This would enable organizers to efficiently track the locations of attendees and supplement the festival experience with interactive technology."

       

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        The Real Michael, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 3:50pm

        Re: Re: A company is making money

        No, there is nothing good that comes out of tracking individuals. The technology itself is dehumanizing, reducing us to a number and a series of patterns.

         

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    Mega1987 (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 10:54am

    CCTV in buses

    If they'll just put ONLY one CCTV and that's FACING the door of the bus, Then I won't mind having surveillance equipment being placed on the bus...

    But litter the freaking public transportation of CCTV with absurd and unneeded umber of them then you're not spying those who's riding on it... but also upping the fare price tag...

    Way to go to make more money out of public transportation...

    I'll just take a walk to my destination even it will take me an hour to get there by foot than rather pay something way over my fare money can handle...

     

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      nasch (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 12:05pm

      Re: CCTV in buses

      but also upping the fare price tag...

      Homeland Security paid for it, so we're all paying for it with tax money.

       

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        orbitalinsertion (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 1:49pm

        Re: Re: CCTV in buses

        Wait...uh... Socialismz!

         

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        Mega1987 (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 12:44am

        Re: Re: CCTV in buses

        Good thing I don't have any plans to migrate to the US.(There's so much fun in the Philippines... XD)

        I might get arrested from just downloading a song from a free site if I go there....

        Shoot first, ask question later logic being applied...

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 11:49am

    Transparent government my ass..........you mean put it out there as quietly as possible, cant have this stuff informing the masses, no, put it out there quietly as possible, and have plausible denialbility when the public asks "why dont i know about this"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 12:41pm

    My city has this on all public transportation with signs that you are being filmed - both audio and video...and this is in Canada. I guess you can always not take the bus if you object.

     

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    orbitalinsertion (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 1:48pm

    I guess they can just post a EULA where you pay the fare?

    By boarding this transit and paying the fare, you agree that you are subject to surveillance including, but not limited to, video and audio recording, including frequencies not perceptible by humans.

    If you don't select the non-default option of "I agree" upon attempting to pay the fare, you are ejected from the passenger entry by the top-secret equivalent of a Bat-Ejector Seatô which is covered by one or more of the following patents...

     

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    William Chambers, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 2:15pm

    No, No

    There is no issue with this. Cameras on public transit which have a single bus driver and dozens of random people are a huge benefit and there is no damned problem with this.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 5:29am

      Re: No, No

      "and there is no damned problem with this."

      Except that it is a huge waste of public dollars with little to no benefit to the public. The only people who benefit are the ones with the contracts to furnish and maintain the surveillance equipment. These programs are most likely the result of earmarks, which iirc many congress critters have denounced publicly but endorse privately.

      So - maybe you have no issue with this ... however, there are many who do.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Khoury, Jan 3rd, 2013 @ 1:29pm

    been on a muni?

    I've stopped riding muni busses in SF. There is never a trip without some drama. EVER! This city has turned a blind eye on crime for far too long. I've witnessed 5 crimes last month alone. Significant crimes. Nobody feels safe in 9/10ths of the neighborhoods here. I for one welcome any plan anyone has to turn the tables on the criminals.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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