taxi.jpgThe recording of audio and video footage in taxi cabs is becoming the norm in San Francisco and according to the Examiner, not everyone is happy about it.

While slow frame rate cameras, which capture still photographs, are already mandated by law, in recent months cab companies began installing cameras that capture video and sound, sending off “big brother” alarms for cab drivers and passengers alike.

The videos come in handy when there is an accident and the cab companies can review them to determine fault as well as insurance judgments. Some say the presence of cameras also acts as a deterrent to crime, but according to Mark Gruberg, spokesperson for the United Taxicab Workers, many drivers think the cameras might be too much of an invasion of privacy.

“There is certainly a chilling effect for both passengers and drivers when they find out that everything said in the car will be recorded,” Gruberg told the Ex,. “The cameras add a layer of security, but privacy concerns may trump that.”

In January, new state legislation will go into effect that requires companies to delete all footage recorded, except for what was captured 30 seconds before or after a “triggering event” such as an accident. However, Gruberg says the new law is not clear about who can review the footage or how long it is stored.

There is also confusion over whether the new legislature will ban audio recording or not.
Rich Hybels, proprietor of Metro Cab, said that the SF MTA told cab companies that it would, but Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who sponsored the law, says that there is nothing in the law that prevents sound recording.

Update: A spokesperson for Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher gave us a call to clarify the legislation, saying that it applies specifically to DriveCam type systems, which only record the 30 seconds before and after a “triggering event.” So companies aren’t actually deleting anything (the cameras continually record). However, the legislation only applies to those types of cameras — the cab company could have any other type of camera in there that they want, and it’s totally their call as to what they do with any audio or video they record of you.

Hybels and other drivers think that audio recording can protect drivers, as in the case of passenger complaints filed about one of Metro Cab’s drivers. A review of the audio recording, Hybels said, exonerated him.

How do you feel about the possibility that your cab conversations are being recorded? Is this too much of an invasion of privacy or no big deal?

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