Cameras, Security Systems on Oahu’s City Buses Spark Privacy Concerns

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BY NATALIE IWASA – Bill 15, the city’s capital improvement budget for fiscal year 2013, was recently signed into law by Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle and includes approximately $400,000 for cameras and security monitoring systems that will be installed in and on city buses.  Recordings will be kept in the bus for 30 days and can be accessed remotely.

The idea behind these cameras is that they will deter offensive and illegal behavior by both drivers and passengers.  The outside cameras are also meant to “protect” drivers and the city when other motorists cause crashes.  The point that has not been adequately addressed, however, is the fact that these cameras will also be recording people’s homes on a daily basis.  By the end of the month, some homes will have been recorded well over 1,000 times.  Other homes may be recorded even more often, depending on how frequently TheBus passes by.


While some people brush this intrusion off as necessary for “safety” reasons, others do not feel comfortable knowing that their every move is being recorded, even though they are doing nothing wrong.

If it’s okay to have video monitoring on TheBus, what about other places?  City Councilmembers will decide July 11 whether to accept two gifts for security systems to monitor “assets” at Makakilo Community Park and Palailai Neighborhood Park (Resolutions 12-27 and 12-28, respectively).  The impetus for these gifts is graffiti and other illegal activities that have occurred in these parks.  These cameras may reduce illegal activity in these parks, or they may simply become vandals’ new targets.  The important question here is, will criminal activity be reduced or merely pushed to another area?

The first time I became aware that the city is monitoring our movements was near the end of 2010 when City Council was considering whether to authorize overt monitoring in the city’s Weed and Seed areas, e.g., Chinatown.  At that time I asked how far monitoring would go.  At what point is enough enough?

No one has answered those questions, although a few have asked me why I oppose these cameras and government monitoring specifically.  The answer is easy – I visited East Berlin before The Wall came down.  I felt terribly uncomfortable knowing that “eyes” were following my every move.  Walking down city streets was not pleasant.  There were very few other people walking about.  I contrasted that experience with walking around in West Berlin, where people laughed, enjoyed outdoor cafes and in general felt free to be themselves.

In my opinion, it is not acceptable for the government to be recording homes along bus routes, and I don’t want to be monitored when I go to the park.  How far are we willing to let Big Brother go before we say, “Enough is enough”?


Natalie Iwasa is a CPA who lives in Hawaii Kai