- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey’s transit agency said Wednesday it’s ending its use of audio surveillance systems on some of its trains.

Audio and video recording have been in use on New Jersey Transit’s River Line between Trenton and Camden, and the agency had said it was planning to use the system on light rail trains in Newark and in Hudson County.

But Wednesday, the agency said it was removing the audio recording feature from light rail cars.

“Following a careful internal review that involved weighing security benefits, operational necessities and evolving industry practices, NJ Transit has decided to remove the audio recording feature from light rail vehicles,” it said in an email. “Customer safety remains our top priority and it was determined that removing the audio recording feature would not in any way compromise that standard.”

Rail rider groups and civil liberties advocates had raised privacy issues about the surveillance.

“Not only was NJ Transit collecting countless hours of train conversations, but the agency irresponsibly failed to put policies in place to prevent misuse of the recordings or to protect passengers’ privacy,” the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey said in a statement. “State agencies should think twice before dismissing New Jerseyans’ privacy rights so easily.”

After news of the surveillance surfaced in April, Interim Executive Director Dennis Martin defended its use and said the agency was using whatever tools at its disposal to “deter criminal activity” and keep passengers safe, citing global terror attacks.

Earlier this month, NJ Transit said it was keeping the audio tapes for 30 days before overwriting them.

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