The Maryland Transit Administration may install audio surveillance equipment on its buses and trains to record conversations of passengers and employees, according to a letter sent by the organization to Maryland’s Attorney General’s Office.
The document searches for legal guidance on whether installing this equipment would fall under the jurisdiction of Maryland’s anti-wiretapping law. MTA Administrator Paul J. Wiedefeld noted in the letter that the MTA has already taken the step of using video cameras for security aboard its vehicles and writes, “As part of MTA’s ongoing efforts to deter criminal activity and mitigate other dangerous situations on board its vehicles, Agency management has considered adding audio recording equipment to the video recording technology now in use throughout its fleet.”
The MTA administration chose to send a letter seeking an opinion from the state after considering the legal ramifications and if and how the electronic eavesdropping would be legal. The document asked whether Maryland’s Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act would require the MTA gain passenger’s consent before they began recording their conversation. If consent is required, the MTA is considering the step of posting a sign informing riders they were under surveillance for sufficient notice.
The idea has drawn opposition from Senator Brian E. Frosh, Chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings, who predicted the plan would result in an almost immediate bill against it. He then went on to say, “Do we really need to stoop that low in order to keep order?” “It’s that ‘1984’ question ultimately: Do you want government delving that closely into everybody’s personal life to maintain our safety.”
The Maryland Transit Administration is attempting a smart undertaking by installing surveillance equipment on its trains and buses for recording purposes. Despite what naysayers may believe, this is an idea that should be attempted to its fullest extent, as long as it stays within legal bounds. By recording both riders and employees, transit authorities can protect their riders from crime and harassment more effectively. By recording employees, administrators can make sure their workers are not breaking any essential rules and can take action if they do so. And finally, the Transit Administration can protect their riders and workers from the threat of terrorism by undertaking this action. Many of the stations and trains and buses the MTA services are at or near Baltimore or Washington, so they could be seen as possible target in any attack. Recording people would be in invaluable tool in stopping and protecting against this threat. As long as the MTA makes its riders and employees aware of the new, legal action through advertising both in the public and on trains and buses, I see no reason why this plan would not be seen as smart and successful. The public wants to feel safe and secure, and the MTA can truly give that to them. Why stop it? (via the Baltimore Sun)