Who Owns Your Black Box Data?

When a crash triggers the Event Data Recorder, who has a right to the information? The police, the automaker, the insurer, the driver, and crash victims may all clamor for a peek into the black box to find out what really happened. Privacy advocates are launching a grassroots campaign to ensure that the black-box crash data stays securely in the hands of the vehicle owner. The National Motorists Association is calling on the public to sign a White House petition to include a provision in the new transportation bill that mandates a lockable cover to the EDR’s data port.

The NMA has until May 22 to gather 25,000 signatures, the threshold required to solicit a response from President Obama on the proposal to amend Senate Bill 1813. This measure within the federal transportation bill, which has had an agonizing and slow birth, requires all vehicles manufactured after September 2015 to be equipped with an EDR capable of capturing a wide range of data points under a specific list of crash conditions and within certain parameters of accuracy. The bill requires automakers to make third-party data readers available to the public and contains language covering the ownership of the data. Currently, 13 states address the privacy aspect of EDR data in their laws, but there is a lot of variability in what protections they afford vehicle owners.

“We say that when the customer drives off the lot with a new vehicle, the customer owns more than the vehicle -- they own the data that the vehicle generates. Under this law, there are no ways or means for customer to control it,” says Thomas M. Kowalick, chairman of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ (IEEE) global standards development for Motor Vehicle Event Data Recorders.

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