With an impressive $6 million Federal Homeland Security grant, it’s possible that the SFMTA might finally lick the persistent issue of broken onboard cameras. But now that an elderly and inconsistently operational system that again and again has prevented officials from getting valuable details after many Muni crimes and accidents might finally get fixed, some civil rights groups are concerned about how those cameras might get used.
As the Ex reports, this grant will add high-tech cameras to 358 buses, as well as wireless networks, computers, and servers to three bus yards. All this to allow SFMTA to view, download, and store videos wirelessly as well as view them in real-time.
Great news, right? After all, it was just a few years ago that 22% of Muni’s cameras didn’t work, causing an angry public to criticize the transit agency for failing to maintain their surveillance systems and, many said, failing to keep riders and operators safe.
But Linda Lye of the ACLU worries to the Ex that riders’ civil rights bight be violated. “What is being done with (Muni footage), how long is it being retained and how is it being disseminated?” she asks.
Lye shouldn’t worry too much, though — according to an MTA spokesperson, Muni doubts they’ll be taking advantage of many of the capabilities of the system, telling the Ex that real-time monitoring “is not a capability that we envision using on a full-time basis.”