Privacy SOS

What’s going on with the New York City subway system?

Contrary to the company's August 13, 2012 claim, evidence suggests that Cubic Corporation, a defense and transportation services company, manages sales of TrapWire to US law enforcement through a McClean, VA based firm, Abraxas Applications.

The company's August 2012 denial — issued in the wake of online uproar about TrapWire, a shadowy surveillance system created by former CIA officers — contrasts with information the Abraxas Corporation, a Cubic subsidiary, appears to have provided the federal government as late as February 3, 2011.

Cubic oversees or owns a number of services and companies that deal in the extremely private data of millions of ordinary people. It's therefore understandable that the $1.2 billion corporation didn't want to be seen as having anything to do with TrapWire, a surveillance, "predictive intelligence" and data-mining company marketed to governments and corporations.

Among many other similar projects, Cubic runs the back-end data management for the New York City Metropolitan Transit Association (MTA) smart card system. In fact, according to a 2010 press release announcing the expansion of Cubic's services to the NYC bus system, the company designed and implemented the MetroCard system nearly twenty years ago.

TrapWire claims to be operating the back end of the "See Something, Say Something" suspicious activity reporting program in New York City, a partnership between the New York Police Department and the MTA, though the NYPD denies any association with the company.

Abraxas describes one of the "[s]ystems integration services associated with the TrapWire system" on a FEMA website advertising TrapWire to law enforcement:  

In the technology area, this entails providing sensor technologies, customized software, data mining capabilities, technology operations and maintenance support, and other products or services necessary for the operation of the TrapWire system.

If the US government is right, and Cubic is selling TrapWire to law enforcement, the company has its hands on passenger data for the over 8 million daily MTA riders, suspicious activity reports from New York City, and access to the TrapWire surveillance network.

Cubic and TrapWire elsewhere

In 2011, Cubic won a $220 million contract to run the smart card system for the Vancouver, Canada public transit system, TransLink. Cubic Corporation also runs the fare systems for Los Angeles, Atlanta, London and Washington DC public transit.

TrapWire is also operational in Washington DC, according to this 2011 testimony from the Metropolitan Police Department Chief of Police to Congress:

In addition to tracking operational law enforcement activity and identifying emerging threats in the fusion center, MPD is also engaged in the Homeland Security's pilot project of the Trap Wire, a predictive software system. This system supports the use of our suspicious activity reporting to detect patterns of pre-attack surveillance and logistical planning.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.