At a recent public lecture by Richard Stallman for the New York Hacker Union*, the question came up whether New York taxicabs now all contain surveillance cameras, by law. Based on my subsequent research, they do not.
I took a yellow cab home and asked my cabbie about the issue. He said that limousines, and any cabs without dividers between driver and the back seat, are required to have cameras — but not cabs that do have dividers. If true, that seems to me primarily aimed at protecting drivers from easy physical contact by passengers, rather than being a surveillance issue in the broad sense. He says that there is now mandatory GPS in all cabs and there may eventually be cameras in the telescreens that cabs already have, but not at present. He grew quite worked up describing the mayor's plan to be able to turn off a cab's meter remotely if the cab exceeds the speed limit.**
Current rules on taxis are published in in http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/downloads/pdf/rule_book_20140220_chapter_58.pdf. "In Vehicle Camera System" (IVCS) rules, in sec. 58-36 Part (c) of that chapter, specify that any cab with a camera inside it must have a non-detachable decal "inscription" on the rear passenger window, reading
This vehicle is equipped with camera security. YOU WILL BE PHOTOGRAPHED"
and printed at least 1/2-inch high.
Sec. 58-35 (b) is the only other mention of IVCS in the rules — it permits a taxi to be exempted from the requirement to have a partition if, among other things, that taxi has an IVCS. That is evidently why limousines (which usually have no partition) have cameras but ordinary cabs (which usually have a partition) tend not to. I can find no rule requiring an IVCS under any other circumstance.
There's some discussion of cameras as an alternative to partitions at http://www.taxi-library.org/tlc-cameras.htm, which is labelled as a Taxi and Limousine Commission press release dating from 2000.
* "A Free Digital Society: An Evening with Richard Stallman," 20140220 at Cooper Union in New York City. See the announcement at http://www.meetup.com/nyhacker/events/164516762.
** The City's proposal is summarized in the Vision Zero Action Plan, dated 20140218.
Automated enforcement has a role to play in the City’s for-hire vehicles as well. TLC will explore automated technology solutions like pausing the meter if the driver exceeds the speed limit, adding speed governors to all vehicles, and requiring all vehicles to include collision warning equipment. TLC will also pilot a program to provide driver and passenger alerts if the vehicle is traveling over the speed limit.