Especially in densely populated urban areas, public transportation has been heralded by the left as nothing less than a panacea.
Whether clearing up congested roads or reducing carbon emissions, buying a bus pass is viewed by many as a meaningful step toward environmental friendliness.
The federal government, however, might have an altogether different interest in corralling the population aboard public transit vehicles.
Though the Department of Homeland Security has certainly not been publicizing the information, reports have surfaced that the agency is funding the installation of surveillance systems capable of capturing audio from private conversations. At this point, what the information will be used for seems to be anybody’s guess.
The recording systems have been installed in several cities with others planning to do so in the future.
Early adopters of this privacy invasion include the San Francisco transit system, which approved spending nearly $6 million to install the microphones on more than 350 buses and trollies. The tab was paid entirely through a DHS grant.
Baltimore, another city involved in the program, initially shied away from installing the audio-gathering equipment because of complaints from civil liberty activists.
When the state’s attorney general replied an onboard sign would quash any potential legal risks, the city went on with the installations.
The microphones can be used in conjunction with video cameras to offer authorities full surveillance – without a warrant – of anyone using public transportation.
All information gathered can be instantly reviewed or stored for later use. Reports indicate each bus in the program generally contains between four and six cameras, each with a separate microphone.
While transit officials tout the new technology’s usefulness in settling disputes and advancing safety, many feel having personal conversations recorded is an inherent breach of privacy.
The vast majority of dystopian predictions miss the mark entirely, though one – George Orwell’s depiction of the totalitarian state led by Big Brother in the classic novel “1984″ – is fast becoming reality. His prophetic work just set the date about 30 years too soon.
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