Public transportation is used throughout the country to help individuals efficiently travel from one place to another without the need of a personal vehicle. While this can help consumers avoid paying costly gas prices, ongoing crime rates have risen concern as to whether mass transit is truly safe.
To minimize the risk for drivers, passengers and general pedestrians, government officials in several cities across the United States are planning to enhance surveillance cameras already in use on city buses and streetcars. In addition to having the ability to remotely monitor video footage, agencies can also listen in on conversations, according to a report by The Daily.
This initiative introduces a number of privacy concerns and raises the possibility of a Big Brother situation in the future.
"This is very shocking," said Anita Allen, a privacy law expert at the University of Pennsylvania, according to The Daily. "It's a little beyond what we're accustomed to. The adding of the audio seems more sensitive."
What the project entails
The project is planned to be implemented in several cities, including San Francisco, Hartford, Connecticut, Eugene, Oregon, and Columbus, Ohio, the news source said. By using advanced audio solutions built into the existing surveillance cameras, government officials believe it will improve local law enforcement's ability to reduce crime by virtually sending an invisible police officer to take note of all conversations happening on public transit vehicles.
In San Francisco, the $5.9 million contract was recently approved to install an audio-enhanced video surveillance system on approximately 357 buses and streetcars throughout the city, The Daily reported.
"The purpose of this project is to replace the existing video surveillance systems in [San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's] fleet of revenue vehicles with a reliable and technologically advanced system to increase passenger safety and improve reliability and maintainability of the system," contract documents read, according to The Daily.
A separate report by SDM Magazine said audio-enabled surveillance cameras will provide decision-makers with more data that will enable local law enforcement to reduce criminal activity. By installing these tools in public areas, like transportation vehicles, agencies may gather vast quantities of insight.
Although the projects have been developed with the best intentions in mind, they invoke Big Brother theories that make consumers fear they will never have private conversations.