Many of us have come to terms with the fact that the government is watching us all the time, around the clock, wherever we are. And a new lawsuit is accusing a BART app of adding to the unstoppable list of gidgets and gadgets that monitor our every move.
The BART Watch App was launched in 2014 to enable BART's passengers report criminal or suspicious activity to BART police. Users can even upload photos or message in real-time with law enforcement. It turns out, tho, that when the app is downloaded and set up, it collects the user's phone identification number, known as International Mobile Equipment Identity number and periodically transmits the user's precise location.
Had Albany resident and BART rider Pamela Moreno known that the app was going to access that info, reports KRON 4, she never would have downloaded BART Watch. So now she's suing BART in a lawsuit filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court in Oakland.
According to the Chronicle, the lawsuit claims that the app was "programmed the app to secretly collect transit users' unique cellular identifiers, periodically monitor users' locations, and track the identities of anonymous reporters." According to Moreno's lawyers, the app violates California's Cellular Communications Interception Act, Consumer Legal Remedies Act and constitutional right to privacy.
What does Moreno want? She wants BART Watch to stop with this info gathering and she wants unspecified monetary damages for users of the app.
BART spokesperson Alicia Trost told ABC7, "BART does not use ELERTS system to randomly track users. An app's user location information is available only if the user selects the option to share their location information. And then, BART only receives the user's location when the user is reporting an incident."
San Francisco Business Journal reports that BART has seen an increase in robberies of 45% from last year. (We cover BART crime all the time.) Maybe the app just wants to track BART Watch users' location so they can send the cops to the right place? If you call 911, they track where you're calling from, right? That's part of the deal.
For example, say you're riding on BART and see someone masturbating which IS A THING. Then you open up BART Watch and it can pinpoint exactly where you and the masturbator are located. Or it could, until someone files a lawsuit about their privacy.
That's not to say that BART Watch is effective.
What about homelessness? I used the BART Watch app to move a rowdy person taking up 4 seats during the morning comm. No one came. #AskSFBART— Joe King (@jaalemen) May 23, 2017
“This is a very concerning privacy breach. Consumers are generally unwilling to offer their information for this to build a database. The people of California feel very strongly about their privacy, and we are looking forward to our day in court to be able to address these issues,” lawyer Eve-Lynn Rapp told the San Francisco Business Times.
BART has 60 days to respond to the complaint. In the meantime, here's our guide to the safest and most dangerous BART stations.