A couple of senators are doing the right thing by trying to make sure vehicle owners get more say over what happens to information collected on the “black boxes” about to become mandatory in all cars and small trucks sold in the United States.
The Driver Privacy Act would make it clear that the owner of a vehicle is also the owner of any information collected by the devices, formally known as event data recorders. Fourteen states have passed similar laws.
The recorders collect information on such things as direction of travel, speed and seatbelt use and already are in nearly every car on the road (check your owner’s manual).
While the stated desire of automakers is to respond to consumer demand while improving safety, these devices track and record the owners’ activities to a degree that makes some law-abiding citizens nervous. The reason for discomfort: The possibility that the information could be used against the driver by insurance companies or in litigation.
The bill, introduced by Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., would stop some of the intrusion by limiting what the data could be used for and requiring a warrant to release the data without the owner’s consent.
It’s a start.
This has become an increasingly connected society and vehicles, sometimes seen as a sanctuary, are becoming less so. Automakers continue to add the latest technology to their vehicles, turning them into rolling workplaces.
The enthusiasm can get too high, as Jim Farley, Ford’s top sales executive, recently discovered. Farley let his enthusiasm go a little overboard when he said at the Consumer Electronics Show: “We know everyone who breaks the law. We know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing.”
That understandably made his bosses nervous and Farley couldn’t pull back fast enough, claiming the company doesn’t supply the data to anyone. But who’s to say about tomorrow or next year?
In another troubling development, the Government Accountability Office released a report that revealed some automakers were keeping private data collected from onboard navigation systems and mapping apps.
As technology works its way further into our lives, even into vehicles, privacy issues must be addressed.