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Civil Liberties Advocates Worried About Bus Cameras with Audio Recording

Posted Dec 3, 2012 7:31 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Video recording on trains and buses has become common, but some cities are adding audio recording to capture drivers’ conversations, a development that has is raising concerns among civil liberties advocates.

The concern is that the audio devices can also capture passenger conversations, the Washington Post reports.

In Montgomery County, Md., some cameras on the Ride On buses have audio devices that record at all times. Spokeswoman Esther Bowring told the Post that the audio devices are near the drivers, and the recordings are accessed only if there is an accident or other incident, such as a complaint about the driver. The devices would not pick up normal passenger conversations, she said, but could record someone shouting or talking loudly.

Among those expressing concern is David Rocah, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. A bus rider who believes a conversation can be heard only by the driver should have a reasonable expectation of privacy, he said. Even though stickers on the buses warn passengers about the recording devices, passengers don't automatically give up privacy rights, he said, because many have to use public transit.

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