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ACLU Raises Privacy Concerns About Traffic Cameras

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The American Civil Liberties Union is raising privacy concerns about PennDOT’s traffic camera network in the region.

Mary Catherine Roper, staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said anecdotal stories about the activities of stopped motorists along the side of major roadways from a PennDOT traffic control specialist who monitors the network from King of Prussia raised the privacy issue for her.

The employee’s comments were published in a suburban newspaper and recalled illegal activities that he observed and reported to law enforcement.

In one case, the PennDOT employee confirmed he had to go to court to testify because the cameras are live and not connected to a recording device.

Roper believes the state needs to come up with strict rules for operators, “That they’re not looking at somewhere other than the highway. That if they glance at a vehicle and see that it’s not disabled that that really is the end of what PennDOT should be doing. They’re not police.”

PennDOT spokesman Gene Blaum said the network’s focus is spotting disabled motorists and accidents and getting help, “Just having a vehicle stuck on the shoulder of a roadway will slow down main line traffic so our whole intention is to get the vehicles off the roadways and keep the lanes open.”

Blaum says there have been occasions that police have been called to investigate incidents, but those cases are rare.

Reported by Mark Abrams, KYW Newsradio

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  • CTB

    The Penn Dot employee is looking at a public place (and you can’t get much more public than a busy highway). What’s more the images from those cameras are used by both commercial enterprises (like CBS3) and public safety agencies.

    What expectation of privacy would a person have.

    Ms. Roper almost seems a caricature of ACLU type who favors criminals over the rest of society.

  • uffdaron

    Your assumed “right to privacy”, what ever that is, does not give you right to criminal activity. Privacy is usually boardered by your own property. You don’t own the highways by your self, but share ownership with the rest of civilisation.

  • Olney Falcon

    It doesn’t take a “Roads Scholar” to see that there are details missing from this story. Not one specific instance of a potential abuse was mentioned, not even the facts of the case in which the PennDOT employee was called upon to testify in court as to what were “… the illegal activities that he observed and reported to law enforcement.” Let’s hope Ms. Roper never needs the services of a PennDOT employee, who, because of her actions, would no longer be allowed to notice when the police ought to be called to take a closer look at roadside activities… Justice is never that swift…

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