The systems use cables or WiFi to pair audio conversations with camera images in order to produce synchronous recordings. Audio and video can be monitored in real-time, but are also stored onboard in blackbox-like devices, generally for 30 days, for later retrieval. Four to six cameras with mics are generally installed throughout a bus, including one near the driver and one on the exterior of the bus.
Cities that have installed the systems or have taken steps to procure them include San Francisco, California; Eugene, Oregon; Traverse City, Michigan; Columbus, Ohio; Baltimore Maryland; Hartford, Connecticut; and Athens, Georgia.
The Katz case from the 1960’s held that a person has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” even in a public telephone booth. (Yes, telephones used to be in booths, kids.) I wonder whether a court would hold a similar expectation of privacy in a public bus. Let’s say two people are sitting in the back of an otherwise empty bus discussing their campaign plans to run against a local Chief of Police. Can the local Chief listen in on their plans?