Senate committee votes to keep driver black box data private

The Senate Commerce Committee has approved legislation that will protect the information on automotive Event Data Recorders, also know as black boxes. Senators Amy Klobuchar (MN) and John Hoeven (ND) proposed these rules last year. The legislation states the information in the black boxes is that of the owner, and therefore they are the only person entitled to that data.

There are a few exceptions to the rule though: the information can still be accessed if authorized by a court or with the consent of the owner. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can collect data from the black boxes for issues related to recalls, but they cannot disclose personal information in the process. And lastly, law enforcement may use the data if needed following a crash.

Black boxes track data like speed, braking, airbag deployment and location, and over 90 percent of vehicles have them installed.

This is likely welcome news to many Americans who feel like their privacy has been compromised over the years, especially in light of the leaks concerning the NSA monitoring data. Not everyone thinks that the benefits that could come from these black boxes is an equal trade-off for the intrusion that they provide. Hopefully this decision to make the car owner (or lessee) the owner of the information in the black box, will put people at ease.

In a statement on his website, Senator Hoeven commented that, “EDRs can serve a useful function by helping to make cars and streets safer, but access to the data should be treated as personal except under very specific circumstances.” The alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents several companies including Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, and Volkswagen, has given support the committee’s decision. It appears that everyone involved, both car owners and manufacturers, agree on the importance of an individual’s privacy in this situation.


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