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Source: Global Times Global Times

Taxi GPS devices raise surveillance concern

Published: 27 Sep 2009 12:02:02 PST

By Liang Chen

Traffic authorities reiterated Saturday that Beijing taxis are only equipped with GPS and communication safety devices during a press tour to the Beijing Traffic Command Center.

The statement was in response to a reporter's question as to whether or not audio surveillance devices have been installed in cabs as a National Day security measure.

"Both my colleagues and I have never heard of installing such listening devices in taxis at all," said Sui Yagang, deputy director of the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau according to cri.com.cn, China Radio International's website.

Sui went on to explain that the government has equipped cabs with Global Positioning System (GPS) devices in order to "protect the safety of the drivers and to collect traffic flow information for traffic management departments."

A spokesman for the Beijing-based Shouqi Taxi Company surnamed Gong echoed Sui in saying that all cabs have GPS to protect the safety of the drivers and to facilitate easier dispatching for the companies.

"There are two microphones in the dashboard, but they were installed three years ago," said Gong, adding that he has not heard of any surveillance devices in taxis recently.

"The microphones are for communicating with our alarm center directly, but only when a call button is pressed. If the driver doesn't press the button, we can't hear anything," said an anonymous spokesman for Qihua Communication Company, a taxi GPS provider.

Some Beijing residents have mixed feelings about the idea of microphones in their taxis.

"We can't simply say the installation of the equipment itself has invaded our privacy. However, if a taxi driver turns it on without informing passengers, that constitutes an invasion of privacy," said Beijing resident Wang Jing, an office worker and frequent taxi passenger.

"GPS is commonly used in developed countries like the US," Zhang Yiwu, a professor at Peking University, told the Global Times Sunday.

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