Three-quarters of Baltimore buses are equipped to record passengers’ conversations.
The MTA has been open about their recording capabilities, but many bus riders still aren’t aware that they’re being recorded. Or maybe people just didn’t care. But for a number of reasons, the tide seems to be turning. After revelations about Baltimore Police using Stingray technology to track cell phones and a general uneasiness about the surveillance state, the bus recordings are facing closer scrutiny.
This week, the Maryland state senate is considering a bill that would limit the MTA’s recording capabilities. Rather than indiscriminate surveillance, the recording system would only be turned on by the driver during an incident, or automatically during an accident. In other words, recording would be the exception, not the rule. As it stands now, the MTA “is doing is a mass surveillance,” bill sponsor (and Baltimore County senator) Robert Zirkin told the Washington Post. “I don’t want to overstate it, but this is the issue of our generation. As technology advances, it becomes easier and easier to encroach on people’s civil liberties.”
An MTA spokeswoman told the Sun that the proposed legislation “prohibits a proven, effective public safety tool and puts students and all MTA riders at greater risk.”