October 26, 2011 | By Eva Galperin

BART Considers a Cell Phone Shutdown Policy

This summer, decision-makers at Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) garnered considerable criticism -- not to mention the ire of Anonymous and days of protests -- after they chose to shut down cell phone access to four BART stations in downtown San Francisco based on rumors of an upcoming protest. Now BART’s Board Directors has drafted a Cell Phone Interruption Policy, which they will consider at an upcoming meeting on October 27th.

EFF applauds the BART for taking the time to develop a policy whose intent is to clarify the circumstances under which BART may shut down cell phone communications, but the proposed policy, which was made public last week, raises some profound concerns about procedure and accountability that we believe should be directly addressed.

  • BART should not assert their right to shut down cell phone access without a court hearing of any kind. Free speech is a right granted by the Constitution, not BART.
  • BART should explicitly state that the 8/11 shutdown would violate the cell phone shutdown policy.
  • BART should clarify what it means by  “strong evidence of imminent unlawful activity.” Who will review the evidence? Who decides if it is strong?
  • The draft policy acknowledges the existence of state and federal regulations. BART should explicitly acknowledge their applicability to cell phone shutdowns.
  • BART should include a method of ensuring transparency and accountability for future shutdowns. EFF suggests that in the event that BART considers a shutdown, it should make a written record of the Board’s discussions available to the public, to facilitate transparency and accountability after the fact.

We hope that the BART will incorporate this feedback into the final draft of their Cell Phone Interruption Policy, ensuring clarity and accountability in the cell phone shutdown process. 

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