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Legislative Memo: Bus Lane Cameras

This bill would authorize the use of video cameras to enforce express bus lane restrictions in New York City. While the NYCLU has taken no position on the concept of bus lane cameras, we caution that the city’s use of such cameras directly implicates the privacy rights of individuals traveling the streets of the city.

We commend the sponsors of this legislation for including privacy protections in the bill. However, one essential protection is missing: a requirement that images captured by bus lane cameras must be deleted upon resolution of payment of fine.

We urge the sponsors to amend this bill to include a “destruction of images” provision.

The privacy language included in this bill was based upon a recommendation included in the 2008 report of the New York City Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission. The previous year the NYCLU presented public testimony before the Commission, arguing that absent constraints upon the scope and operation of the proposed congestion mitigation video surveillance system, the personal privacy rights of New Yorkers could be significantly undermined. The Commission agreed with the NYCLU and recommended that New York City take appropriate steps to protect personal privacy. Among its recommendations were:

  • The destruction of images upon resolution of billing and payment;
  • The deletion of identifying information from data retained for research purposes; and
  • Other “appropriate steps to protect the privacy of drivers.”

The congestion pricing bill that was eventually developed (A.10406/S.7243 from the 2007-2008 legislative cycle) included the Commission’s privacy protection recommendations.

This bill includes similar privacy protections for bus lame cameras. It requires the use of technology to limit the scope of images captured by video cameras; a prohibition on the dissemination of such images; the installation of signs to notify drivers of the use of bus lane cameras; and oversight procedures to ensure compliance with the privacy measures. However, the bill lacks a provision requiring the destruction of images upon resolution of billing and payment.

The NYCLU urges the sponsors to amend Section 12 of this bill to include the following amendment:

(1111-c(5)) destruction of images obtained by bus lane photo devices no later than thirty days from the date such images were recorded; or immediately upon adjudication of the liability and payment of fines, as provided in section eleven hundred eleven-b of this article, if either event occurs later than thirty days from the date such images are recorded.

It is essential that bus lane cameras include clear and explicit protections for individuals’ privacy and due process rights. The protections that this bill affords are good, but they could be better. We urge the legislature to amend this bill to include the above provision.

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