Video cameras are coming to public transportation in British Columbia. Probably not breaking news, but I find the following quote to be interesting:
"Many proponents of the system say the public is already recorded on video in malls, ATM machines, and various other areas. Cameras on buses and other public areas, they believe, is simply a natural extension."
With cameras in many places, where is it not a natural extension? Once they are commonplace in one public area, it's very easy to justify putting them in another locale.
BCNG Portals Page (R)
Closed-circuit TV cameras coming to buses
By Kevin Diakiw Black Press
Aug 03 2007
Cameras will be installed on all buses in the coming months, but privacy watch-dogs are concerned about how they’ll be used.
TransLink will spend $4 million for camera installation, primarily as a measure for driver safety. However, TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said cameras will be placed on various areas of the bus, and will not simply be focused at the driver.
“I believe actually there will be more than one camera on the bus, there will be a number of different views,” Hardie said Wednesday.
The expansion of Closed Circuit Television cameras (CCTV) onto buses has been sold primarily as a device to prevent assaults on drivers.
Hardie said they will have several uses.
“Let’s say taggers, who can create mayhem inside a bus, just by leaving graffiti and other damage,” Hardie said. “... now buses might not leave them the kind of anonymity that they love to have when they do their work.”
It’s that kind of “function creep” that concerns civil libertarians.
“I am concerned about this notion ... now that we’ve got them on the bus ... let’s point them all over the bus and let’s catch the kids with crayons in the back seat while we’re at it,” said Micheal Vonn, policy director for B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
She’s also concerned about who would have access to the images.
Hardie said the video will be “recorded on board” to a hard drive and overwritten every week. A special team with Coast Mountain Bus Ltd. would be the only people with access to the video, unless required by police or court.
Many proponents of the system say the public is already recorded on video in malls, ATM machines, and various other areas. Cameras on buses and other public areas, they believe, is simply a natural extension.
“The question is to what degree are we becoming immune to the idea we should not be on film whenever we’re outside of our house,” Vonn said.
With scores of people already on any particular bus witnessing what’s going on, many feel the public expectation of privacy is low.
Vonn has heard the argument and disagrees.
“If I’m in a restaurant having a private conversation with a friend, a server can overhear snatches of what I’m saying,” Vonn said. “It’s quite different than having my Waldorf salad bugged and my entire conversation recorded.”
Hardie said TransLink is working with the B.C. Privacy Commissioner and will be submitting a privacy impact assessment as part of the process.
At the end of the day, the public will be safer with the presence of cameras on the region’s buses, he said.
“For one element, to know their actions are being recorded will make them think twice, there will be a deterrent effect in some respects,” Hardie said.
TransLink is hoping it will serve not only as an effective investigative tool for police, but will lead to stiffer penalties when perpetrators go to court.