Actually, 1994. Or as this article from ComputerWorld states – our cars have been watching us since then:
What cars are equipped to narc on you? According to Crash Forensics, “As of 2011, GM vehicles as old as 1994 have accessible data, Ford vehicles as old as 2001 have accessible data, Chrysler vehicles as old as 2005 have accessible data, Toyota and Lexis vehicles as old as 2006 have accessible data, as well as some Isuzu, Fiat, Mitsubishi, Scion, Sterling, and Suzuki vehicles.” You can also check this list [PDF] or this list [PDF] for vehicles with accessible EDRs.
There is a debate over here in the UK about putting black boxes in cars – it is being sold as a way to reduce insurance costs for young drivers:
The Transport Secretary has encouraged young motorists to consider fitting their cars with ‘black boxes’ in order to cut car insurance costs by up to 50%.
The technology is normally associated with aeroplanes but Justine Greening believes that its ability to monitor speed, acceleration, braking and cornering could help to reduce car insurance premiums by showing how safe young drivers actually are.
I heard this on BBC Radio 1 on the way from home from work this week and though “How Orwellian…” and then I ran across this telling me that we Yanks have been being watched, not by the Transformers, but by our own cars for over 18 years.
When you are car shopping, how many times has a salesman pitched the 15 to 30 specific data elements constantly being collected by the car’s black box as you drive? Probably never, but there’s electronic data everywhere and that includes your car collecting digital evidence which might turn into the star witness to testify against you. You may not think about or be aware of your vehicle’s event data recorder (EDR), yet it is constantly recording evidence like a plane’s “black box” and is being used after a crash to explain why it happened.
Way back in 2006, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandated that all new vehicles be equipped with EDR “black boxes” by the 2013 model year [PDF]. 85% of U.S. vehicles now have EDR devices that “must capture and preserve at least 15 types of crash data, including pre-crash speed, engine throttle, changes in forward velocity and airbag deployment times.” Some capture 30 types of data.
How does this square with a right to privacy?
Privacy rights have been the core of many landmark SCOTUS decisions over the past years, starting with landmark case of Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Constitution protected a right to privacy.
Privacy experts are justifiably concerned. On March 14, 2012, Senate Bill 1813, the Orwellian titled bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (or MAP-21 as it is known inside the Beltway), passed the senate by a vote of 74-22 and it mandates that ALL vehicles have black boxes in them and the protections for your data are vague at best:
As the bill has currently been written in both the House and Senate versions: “Any data in an event data recorder required under part 563 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, regardless of when the passenger motor vehicle in which it is installed was manufactured, is the property of the owner, or in the case of a leased vehicle, the lessee of the passenger motor vehicle in which the data recorder is installed.”
The bill then goes on to list a few exceptions where that would not be the case, including under court order, if the car owner or lessee consents to the data’s release, under investigation or inspection as allowed under federal law, or to help in an emergency situation.
“The fourth exemption is especially troublesome because it seems to say that any EDR data that might be useful for determining the need for emergency response to any vehicle crash would be generally available,” wrote Dorothy Glancy, a law professor at Santa Clara University, in an e-mail to Ars.
She added that because language in the bill refers to “in response to a motor vehicle crash,” as opposed to something more specific, such as “the crash of the vehicle in which EDR data was accessed,” there could be future legal disputes where an insurance company representative could be included in the parties that could access the relevant data.
There has been a worry by some car owners and privacy activists that this data would automatically be shared with insurance companies and law enforcement.
“The new language seems to require a court order for the government to obtain the data in a criminal investigation, or for another driver to get in a dispute over a crash,” wrote Justin Brookman, director for consumer privacy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, in an e-mail to Ars on Friday. “That’s a nice nod, but [I’m] not sure that’s that high a bar to reach however in either case.”
The supposed purpose of MAP-21 is “to reauthorize Federal-aid highway and highway safety construction programs, and for other purposes” but it contains many other goodies, as they always do, this is the bill that allows the government to revoke your passport if you are suspected of owing taxes:
“SEC. 7345. REVOCATION OR DENIAL OF PASSPORT IN CASE OF CERTAIN TAX DELINQUENCIES.
(a) In General- If the Secretary receives certification by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that any individual has a seriously delinquent tax debt in an amount in excess of $50,000, the Secretary shall transmit such certification to the Secretary of State for action with respect to denial, revocation, or limitation of a passport pursuant to section 4 of the Act entitled ‘An Act to regulate the issue and validity of passports, and for other purposes’, approved July 3, 1926 (22 U.S.C. 211a et seq.), commonly known as the ‘Passport Act of 1926’.
(b) Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt- For purposes of this section, the term ‘seriously delinquent tax debt’ means an outstanding debt under this title for which a notice of lien has been filed in public records pursuant to section 6323 or a notice of levy has been filed pursuant to section 6331, except that such term does not include–
(1) a debt that is being paid in a timely manner pursuant to an agreement under section 6159 or 7122, and
(2) a debt with respect to which collection is suspended because a collection due process hearing under section 6330, or relief under subsection (b), (c), or (f) of section 6015, is requested or pending.
(c) Adjustment for Inflation- In the case of a calendar year beginning after 2012, the dollar amount in subsection (a) shall be increased by an amount equal to–
(1) such dollar amount, multiplied by
(2) the cost-of-living adjustment determined under section 1(f)(3) for the calendar year, determined by substituting ‘calendar year 2011’ for ‘calendar year 1992’ in subparagraph (B) thereof.