N.J. Transit Surveillance Raises Privacy Concerns

The installation of video and audio surveillance systems being installed on New Jersey Transit's light rail trains is raising concerns about passenger privacy.

The surveillance equipment cost $750,000 to install on River Line trains, while installation work is ongoing on the Hudson-Bergen and Newark light rail trains. That $1.9 million project is being paid for by a federal grant.

All light rail vehicles with the surveillance systems have signs informing passengers about their presence and that their conversations are being recorded.

NJ Transit Spokesman Jim Smith said that it is "a deterrent for crime and unruly behavior. The video and audio captured ... is utilized by the New Jersey Transit Police Department and is an indispensable investigatory tool for them," Smith said.

Commuters don't usually have a problem with video surveillance, added Len Resto, president of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers. "People take it in stride," Resto said of video recording. "The audio recording, people have a real problem with."

But the ACLU said that passengers should also know how long the video and audio recordings are kept and who has access to them. They also say people should be able to have private conversations with the passenger next to them. "Our laws say you have a right to a private conversation," said Ed Barocas, legal director of the state American Civil Liberties Union.

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