Gwinnett transit to follow MARTA with rider surveillance

9:27 PM, Dec 12, 2012   |    comments
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Is it Big Brother or stepped up security?

That's a question for anyone who rides an Athens Transit bus.

For five years now, all vehicles in the department have been equipped with electronic eyes and ears.

And it's hardly the first city to employ the technology.

In these buses, as in many there's always a sign telling you you are being recorded and everything's in one location. Both video and sound.

That information goes to hard drives and can be accessed after the fact.

According to Director Butch McDuffie its only used when a crash occurs or a complaint is lodged.

"The surveillance system this is merely a tool to help make our system safer and protect our citizens from liability issues since we've installed the system frivolous claims have gone down 50 percent," said McDuffie.

But privacy lawyers and technology experts warn these constantly running cameras with sound could be used in an Orwellian way -- to hone in on a particular person and listen in on individual conversations.

Riders seem torn.

It turns out, this type of surveillance is already used on many Metro Atlanta transit systems.

Marta just finished a pilot program and is using federal transit funds to outfit all of it's buses with cameras and microphones. Something it announced to it's ridership months ago.

And Gwinnett County Transit hopes to have the same thing on all 93 of it's buses by next fall.

As for concerns that transit authorities will eventually move to real time 24-7 surveillance, this director says even if the technology is there, the manpower and desire is not.

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