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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Feds Urged to Protect Vehicle ‘Black Box’ Data

(CN) - Civil rights advocates urged the U.S. government to strictly regulate vehicle black boxes as the devices could pose significant privacy implications for drivers.

"Black boxes, more formally called event data recorders (EDRs), can serve a valuable forensic function for accident investigations, because they can capture information like vehicle speed before the crash, whether the brake was activated, whether the seat belt was buckled, and whether the airbag deployed," the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said in a statement.

Amid National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) plans to make these devices a mandatory feature of all new cars and light trucks sold in America, privacy groups question where the data will go.

The EFF says that the proposed rules require the collection of data in at least the last few seconds before a crash, but do not "block the long-term monitoring of driver behavior or ongoing capture of much more private information like audio, video, or vehicle location."

In comments to the agency, the EFF called for revised regulations that ensure the protection of "driver and vehicle-owner privacy when it comes to black box data."

"Because no maximum duration is specified, and because modern automotive electronics packages include large amounts of digital storage, there is nothing to prevent the long-term collection of data," the EFF's comments state.

"EFF urges the NHTSA to amend its proposed rules to specify that five seconds is also the maximum data recording duration for each required or optional data element," it added. "On this record, EFF sees no reason to permit longer recording; the NHTSA has already made a reasoned decision that public safety does not require greater than five seconds of data recording."

Regulators should also clarify that EDR data belongs to vehicle owners alone, and that the data must remain private unless the car owner consents to its use, the EFF said. It also suggested giving car owners free and easy access to their black box data.

"Consumers deserve full disclosure of what is being collected, when, and how, as well as an easy and free way of access this data on their own," EFF staff attorney Nate Cardozo said in a statement. "Having to buy access to your own data is not reasonable."

The EFF also suggested an explicit ban against EDR collection of audio, video or location data, as well as the disclosure of EDR data for purposes other than crash recovery.

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