After surveillance camera controversy, BART approves new privacy guidelines

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The BART Board of Directors approved new rules on Thursday governing the use of surveillance technology on trains and in stations.

The vote came after it was revealed that a surveillance device was installed at one BART station without authorization and the data was sent to a system where federal immigration officials could access it.

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With a unanimous vote, the BART board promised to enter a new era of transparency when it comes to buying, testing and using new surveillance technology, something pushed by privacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Unaccountable surveillance does not make us safer. There needs to be transparent discussions about real public safety reforms," said ACLU attorney Matt Cagle.

The new ordinance requires BART to have public debate and get board approval before buying new surveillance equipment or even seeking money for it.

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"It's going to insure that reasonable guidelines are put in place for the use of this technology, the retention of the data, and the sharing with outside third parties," said Brian Hofer, a member of a group called Oakland Privacy.

The ordinance was two years in the making. But passage came just a day after it was revealed that some BART officials installed a license plate reader at MacArthur station in 2016 -- against the wishes of the board -- then shared the data with a law enforcement database that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, could access.
BART said the license plate readers were only up and operating for a matter of months. BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas said when he found out he ordered them taken down.

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"We uninstalled the one reader that we had and no longer sent any information and somebody actually called NCRIC (the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center) and said to delete all our information," Rojas said.

NCRIC is the database where the information was sent. It's not known whether ICE accessed the data.

Despite an investigation, Chief Rojas says he wasn't able to determine who authorized installation of the license plate reader or sharing of the data.

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