by Lance Devon
“Black boxes” are being secretly installed in newer vehicles. These boxes are recording driver behavior, seat belt usage, and more. A newly proposed law could make these recording devices mandatory for most new vehicles, as the auto industry and big government work hand in hand to provide “driver safety”.
Most people are unaware that newer vehicles already contain these event data recorders, which are a continuous feed of information, recorded by sensors. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 96 percent of 2013 model cars already house these black boxes.
Now the NHTSA is proposing that all automakers install the black boxes by September 2014, as big government plans to keeps its watchful eye on drivers everywhere.
Data recorders supposedly all about driver safety
As with most government invasions of privacy, the event data recorders are all for driver “safety.”
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood believes that, “By understanding how drivers respond in a crash and whether key safety systems operate properly, [government safety officials] and automakers can make our vehicles and our roadways even safer.”
Up to five seconds before a crash, all inputs from the vehicles sensors are stored, preserved, and can be retrieved by officials for later use, such as in court. The new legislation gives the government power of collecting and overseeing up to 30 new types of data, including electronic stability control engagement, driver seat position, passenger seat belt use and more. Some engineers have proposed up to 80 more data points that could be helpful in an investigation!
The computerization of modern vehicles
In essence, vehicles are becoming one giant computer, with sensors underneath everything imaginable. The increasing computerization of vehicles is raising concerns whether systems like GPS navigation and the OnStar system could also be misused.
“Basically your car is a computer now, so it can record all kinds of information,” said Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers. “It’s a lot of the same issues you have about your computer or your smartphone and whether Google or someone else has access to the data.”
As technology advances, these black boxes could one day be used for recording conversations, reading facial expressions, etc. Information like this could be used to keep the general public “safe” from “hate crimes”. Giving the government the power to track your every move could one day be the government’s way of tracking domestic “terrorists” or singling out people who criticize the government. The recent IRS scandal is one such example of this. Give the government power over the fruits of the people’s labor and the government thinks it can target specific people they don’t like. Who knows what these mandated black boxes could be used for in the future as big government calculates the information.
Police, insurance companies could patrol your car’s data
Private security expert Steve Rambam understands how universally recorded data could be misused. Since technology already allows these black boxes to transfer data to a monitoring center in real time, Rambam believes law enforcement agencies might seek to cut costs and save resources by monitoring driver data from discreet locations. Law enforcement could monitor people from the comfort of their office, sending tickets to the driver by mail. Old fashioned patrols could evolve into data police centers.
Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, says that insurance could use the data as well, “You should not think of this as being an opportunity to sell data to auto-insurance companies for risk evaluation. That’s a real possibility. Data is valuable,” she warns.
NHTSA dodging privacy concerns
Meanwhile, the NHTSA is dodging people’s concerns over breach of privacy. The NHTSA states that, “While these issues [of personal privacy] are of continued importance in the public discussion on the use of EDR technology, as an agency, we do not have the statutory authority to address many of these privacy issues.”
Since the government is not willing to address the possible abuse of power that is certain to come with the new mandated “black boxes”, can they then be trusted?
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