We know Muni's in-vehicle cameras work, we've enjoyed/gasped at footage of at least one accident in the past year, but the Municipal Railway's aging fuzzycams aren't sophisticated enough for the surveillance geeks at the Department of Homeland Security apparently. So thanks to a hefty $6 million federal grant, 358 Muni buses are getting wireless security cameras and an upgraded computer network that will allow the MTA to "view, download and store the captured video images wirelessly and view them in real-time or through the Internet."
Aside from making it easier and faster for SFMTA and law enforcement agencies to check the tapes, the Department of Homeland Security is already planning for some awesome high-tech, action movie moments. Observe this snippet from city documents about the project, quoted by the Examiner today:
“...the new system will provide real-time viewing of images, inside and outside the bus, by law enforcement officers, emergency responders and other authorized personnel on a real-time basis from a distance of about 500 yards in case the bus is hijacked and used for terrorism activities.”So, the city's technology has finally caught up to a Keanu Reeves movie from 1994, basically.
Of course, the ACLU isn't so excited about the new toys. An attorney for the group rehashed some arguments about the creepiness of real-time surveillance and brought up the usual important questions about how long the images are retained and who will have access to it. According to Muni, they haven't quite ironed out those details yet, but a spokesperson from SFMTA did say they don't expect to be monitoring real-time footage on "a full-time basis." Even if the agency could afford to pay a couple bodies to sit and watch bus footage all day, they probably wouldn't be paying attention anyway.