Commuter rail defends audio surveillance aboard trains

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 6:06 AM

Audio and video recording currently is in utilize on the agency'south River Line between Trenton and Camden and will be in utilize on similar light rail trains in Newark and in Hudson County, NJ Transit said Tuesday.

NJ Transit'south director defended the utilize of audio surveillance systems on some of its trains Tuesday, as some questioned the monitoring'south valid and ethical underpinnings.

Audio and video recording currently is in utilize on the agency'south River Line between Trenton and Camden and will be in utilize on similar light rail trains in Newark and in Hudson County, NJ Transit said Tuesday.

Interim Executive Director Dennis Martin, who'll be replaced by a new executive director in two weeks, said the agency is using whatever tools at its disposal to "deter criminal action" and hold passengers safe, citing global terror attacks.

"In light of terrorist attacks on mass transit facilities around the world, NJ Transit is availing itself of the latest technology to deter that, always keeping in mind the privacy rights of our customers," he said.

Martin declined to reply questions about how the audio data is stored and for how long, who reviews it and how it's disposed of. He only added that "there are laws that govern that and we're in compliance."

The American Civil Liberties Union of NJ has raised questions about the monitoring, though it's not formally challenged it.

"There are laws that declare you can't surveil conversations that you aren't a portion of, when a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy," said Ed Barocas, ACLU NJ valid director. "If you obtain a call from your Dr or from children or a spouse and you see for an isolated area of the train where you number one can hear you, you don't expect the government to be listening in."

A NJ Transit spokeswoman said the agency has number plans to keep audio and video monitoring on its heavy rail lines. NJ Transit'south buses are equipped with audio and video surveillance systems but those have to either be activated by the driver or are activated by a collision, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Barocas was doubtful of the utility of monitoring potentially thousands of conversations to combat terrorism.

"Terrorism is really a ruddy herring," he said. "You don't see for a needle in a haystack by just creating an immeasurably larger haystack."

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