New MBTA Surveillance Program Is a Threat to Civil Liberties and Must Be Stopped
The MBTA just announced that they'll be installing a new surveillance system on 225 buses by this summer. It's built around cutting-edge cameras that will provide a 360 degree field of view to monitors on each of the buses, to the Transit Police dispatch center, and to 80 squad cars equipped with similar monitors.
Total cost will be $6.9 million ... funded entirely by the US Department of Homeland Security. An additional 210 buses will get cameras but no on-board monitors.
According to the Boston Globe, "Because the cameras are being placed on buses that make frequent trips, two-thirds of the T’s bus trips will be covered with the 435 camera systems. Eventually, T officials hope to receive funding to place the cameras on all the system’s buses, and on any new train cars ... including the $1.3 billion in Red and Orange Line trains expected to be introduced in 2019."
Is anyone else as creeped out by this development as I am?
The Mass. ACLU certainly seems to be. They've been watching the MBTA plan since it was first funded in 2010, and they have a number of problems with the new surveillance system.
First, such systems are clearly problematic from a civil liberties perspective. MBTA officials insist that their main concern is to stop crime, but civil libertarians are definitely not buying that argument in the era of Wikileaks and the Snowden revelations that have demonstrated the massive and growing power of the national security state and its corporate allies to monitor virtually everyone on the planet at will.
Second, the ACLU indicates that there's no evidence that such cameras have a deterrent effect on serious crime.
Third, as a wireless system, it can be hacked. By both private interests and the government. And that's scary on a number of levels.
Finally, they point out that this money is being lavished on a surveillance project for a transit system that's been so starved for funds by the device of forcing it to fund itself without proper state support that it's on the verge of yet another fare hike. At a time when ridership figures continue to rise as the economy remains difficult for large numbers of American working people.
This publication therefore recommends that members of the public at large should take swift action to stop the MBTA from implementing the surveillance system - as 10 buses already have cameras and monitors installed and the rest are coming soon.
So check out Mass. ACLU's Privacy SOS program today to find out how you can take action to stop the expansion of the government and corporate surveillance culture around Boston and around the nation.
Before ubiqutous mass surveillance becomes a juggurnaut that's too big to reform. And the right to privacy and other basic civil liberties become mere phantoms of a lost democratic past.
Jason Pramas is Editor/Publisher of Open Media Boston