NMA National Alert: Black Box Data at Stake—Act Now to Protect Your Privacy Right

Kaye Beach

May 7, 2012

An alert from the National Motorists Association;

Dear NMA Member,

Your privacy rights are under attack.

If Washington has its way, all new cars will be equipped with an Event Data Recorder (EDR) that keeps a record of your driving behavior in case of an accident. (Senate Bill 1813).

Since EDRs (or black boxes) have become so widespread, the real issue is who owns the data they collect. As the vehicle owner, you should. But unless you send a signal to Washington, that outcome may be in jeopardy. That’s why we need to gather at least 25,000 signatures on this petition by May 22.

You should also be able to do whatever you want to with your black box data. That includes sharing it with others or deleting it altogether. But it’s not that simple. Only 13 states have laws governing the use of your driving data. That means the police, the courts and the insurance companies can get it if they want to.

Controlling access to your driving data is crucial to protecting yourself from the black box privacy threat. That’s our view as well as the view of Thomas M. Kowalick. He leads the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) global standards development for Motor Vehicle Event Data Recorders (MVEDRs) pertaining to EDR consumer protection of the federal regulation (U.S. CFR Title 49 Part  563).

He’s concerned about the privacy challenges black boxes pose for drivers, and he’s in a unique position to do something about it.

Kowalick’s solution is to require the use of a lockable cover to block access to a vehicle’s EDR data port, preventing unauthorized access and making the vehicle owner the gatekeeper of the data. Kowalick is spearheading a high-profile petition effort to urge policymakers to adopt this requirement.

“I’m still concerned that what we have to fear about EDRs is not their capabilities but how these devices could be used in the future,” he said in a recent article. Kowalick’s strong, pro-privacy stance is welcome news to motorists. Without controls, black boxes have the potential to increase surveillance of motorists, enhance automated law enforcement and enable real-time collection of user fees/taxes.

All NMA members need to go to The White House website now and sign this petition. Then pass the link on to friends. If every member gets four friends to sign, the petition goal will be met. The transportation bill has passed the Senate and is in the House right now. The clock is ticking so you need to act at once.

Left unchecked, abuse of black box data is inevitable. Maintaining control of your driving data is critical in combating further infringement on motorists’ privacy rights. Sign the petition and tell policymakers in the White House, Congress and NHTSA that you take your privacy rights seriously.

Gary Biller, President
National Motorists Association


2 responses to “NMA National Alert: Black Box Data at Stake—Act Now to Protect Your Privacy Right

  1. Check out page 12 of this document from the I 95 Coalition:

    “Electronic readers and communications systems installed at service stations would read the vehicle IDs and transmit the ID data to a processing point. Processing software would estimate miles driven based on the amount of fuel purchased and the vehicle’s fuel economy rating, and would apply a per mile charge. From the point of view of the user, there will be additional technology required on the vehicle but payment transactions at the motor fueling station would be similar to transactions today.”


  2. Bad stuff! They have all kinds of plans to track and control us. It makes me feel sick

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