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Black Boxes In Cars Raise Privacy Concerns 297

Posted by timothy
from the you-bet-they-do dept.
hessian writes "In the next few days, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to propose long-delayed regulations requiring auto manufacturers to include event data recorders — better known as 'black boxes' — in all new cars and light trucks. But the agency is behind the curve. Automakers have been quietly tucking the devices, which automatically record the actions of drivers and the responses of their vehicles in a continuous information loop, into most new cars for years. Data collected by the recorders is increasingly showing up in lawsuits, criminal cases and high-profile accidents. Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray initially said that he wasn't speeding and that he was wearing his seat belt when he crashed a government-owned car last year. But the Ford Crown Victoria's data recorder told a different story: It showed the car was traveling more than 100 mph and Murray wasn't belted in."
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Black Boxes In Cars Raise Privacy Concerns

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  • Welcome to MA (Score:5, Informative)

    by sorensenbill (1931240) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @08:28AM (#42224559)
    I was born and raised in Massachusetts and this is just the culture of the State Police. Anyone who regularly drives on the highways has been passed by a cruiser with it's lights off doing 90 in the passing lane. After his first lies didn't pan out he retcon'd a new story about being asleep that fit the black box data.
  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @08:29AM (#42224573)
    Could it not be used in the defense's favor as well? For example, to prove you came to a full stop or weren't speeding? You'd need a way to collect and save teh data so it's both available and admissible; but a sword can cut two ways.
    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      it does work in the defence's favour too - you can prove you hit the brakes, and the speed you were travelling at, so if you hit someone who jumped into the road in front of you, you'll be able to say you weren't running them down.

      Collection of data for insurance purposes is another matter though, that's more a way for a corporate to wheedle out of their financial responsibilities than it is to keep the roads safe.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @01:20PM (#42226409)

        I would like to say thank you for pointing this out!! It goes both ways! It can help prove your innocence as well!

        As someone who was involved in a fatal traffic accident where a 14 year old boy skateboarded out into the middle of the road in front of my truck(it was pitch dark out, the kid was wearing ALL black with no protection crossing a busy/main 4 lane road, oh and from the toxicology report, stoned off his ass), without that black box in my truck I would be in jail for manslaughter right now. The reasons for such is that the police were able to identify 1) Speed information before and after crash 2) Braking information - When did I apply my brakes, How long did it take to reach a complete stop, etc. 3) Steering Information/Angle 4) Seat belt information 5)Impact information and with this information they were able to ascertain that there was no possible way for me to stop in time without my prior speed having been an endangerment to other drivers (35 in a 55 zone to have stopped in time based on where I was first able to see the kid).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @08:30AM (#42224579)

    It is simple. As long as the black box does not automatically transmit the data, and as long as there are rules who, how and when they can access it (court order?). Then there is no privacy violation.

    • by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @08:50AM (#42224657)
      Those rules will change. For safety. Always for safety. First it will be unavailable. Then it will be logged for "simplicity and ease of access" but only by a court order. Then a court order will become easier to get. Then it will be rubber stamped. Then any police department will be able to access the data.

      And don't say "slippery slope fallacy". It's only a fallacy when there's no clear way for it to progress that way. Just like security cameras, traffic cameras, and phone records are sliding that way black boxes will.
  • by magamiako1 (1026318) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @08:55AM (#42224687)
    Okay, let me break this down for you easily.

    1. Car makers can put whatever devices in their cars they want. It's up to you, the buyer, to either not buy cars with black boxes OR to petition your local/state/federal politicians to make selling cars with black boxes illegal. You have either choice, it's up to you.

    2. Insurance companies can require black boxes in cars if they were factory installed in order to be insured. Though there may be laws that they might be breaking because many states require auto insurance, but I'm not a lawyer. Either way, again, two options: vote with your wallet or make this practice illegal by approaching your politicians.

    3. The aforementioned black box information does not have to be admissible in court for criminal penalties, but insurance companies could black ball you for information obtained from the box. Also, affected victims do have the 100% right to go after you for CIVIL penalties related to any crashes. The only time the 'government' matters is when there is involvement of criminal penalty. A civil court could mandate that the black box information be passed over to the victimized parties for review, or the data retrieved from therein.

    I like how people talk about 'right to privacy' but each example I've mentioned still falls 100% within the boundaries of privacy laws AND more importantly, the US Constitution. Remember, such 'rights' are only granted against GOVERNMENT, but private parties can require whatever the hell they want. You can bitch and moan up a storm about right to privacy and whatnot but remember, private parties have far more leniency compared to personal information. For example, a government might require a warrant to obtain information on you ; but a PI can do whatever they please. The only reason a PI is limited is because someone somewhere said it was fucked up and got laws added.
    • Just as an addition here, remember this the next time you vote and you vote for candidates that want to "reduce the size of government" and extoll the virtues of private enterprise. As you are learning, you really don't have a choice with a black box situation. If all the car manufacturers install them, and you need a car, what recourse do you have? If you remove said box and it violates the manufacturer's warranty and they no longer service/repair your vehicle, whose fault is that? Not theirs. Who will you
      • by mariox19 (632969)

        The point isn't the black box itself; the point is the government being able to subpoena it to use as evidence against you. There's nothing wrong with a manufacturer using the information for its own purposes. As to insurance companies using the data, let's put that argument aside, because it's a separate argument from the one about government using the data. The central question is the one concerning self-incrimination in a court of law. That's the use black boxes can be put to, and using them for that pur

        • I don't agree, and largely because you don't have a 'right' to drive within the United States, which is likely where they'll draw any legal help for challenges within the US. You also have limited rights in public places. What's the difference between a black box in the car and investigators measuring your travel speed using a camera from a gas station across the street? Or even in the same parking lot?

          It's very similar amounts of information, and if one of my loved ones was killed by someone that was lying
          • by Jonathan_S (25407) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:38AM (#42224909)

            I don't agree, and largely because you don't have a 'right' to drive within the United States, which is likely where they'll draw any legal help for challenges within the US. You also have limited rights in public places. What's the difference between a black box in the car and investigators measuring your travel speed using a camera from a gas station across the street? Or even in the same parking lot?

            I'd say about the same difference between unmarked cars following your car around 24/7 and a GPS tracking device.

            Yet the Supreme Court unanimously found that there was a significant difference in that scenario; that the later required a warrant (while the former didn't)

            Sometime technology makes something so easy or so covert to widely accomplish that it, in practice, makes it effectively a change in kind not just degree. When that happens laws are written, or courts can find, that because something has become far easier to do that additional protections are required to maintain an acceptable level of practical freedom.

            • I agree completely, but the end result of the situation is that things are inherently legal until proven illegal, but more importantly each step of the entire process has to be established legally:

              1. Is it legal for the recorders to be installed, configured, and enabled in vehicles?
              2. Is it legal for insurance companies to require these devices to be installed, configured, and enabled?
              3. Is it legal for insurance companies to retrieve this information? To share this information? And under what circumstances
        • Furthermore, this has long been established in the courts. You're saying that under criminal penalty, investigators do not have the ability to enter your home with appropriate warrants to retrieve information relevant to their case? It's easy to argue against such possibilities when you're on the receiving end of the search.

          I'm not saying such information should be available to RFID to a police officer that pulls you over for speeding, but the data should be available for review in criminal cases with subpo
        • by tibit (1762298)

          Wait a minute. First of all, it's not just any government that can subpoena things. It only comes through a court process. Secondly, subpoenas work both ways: both the prosecution and defense can subpoena to the same extent. Thirdly, equal access to evidence by both the prosecution and the defense is guaranteed, and most judges can put you in a lot of hot water if you're interfering with access to evidence. Another misunderstanding here is that of self-incrimination. Self incrimination is about what you vol

          • Just because it's a digital data recorder and it's mentioned on slashdot doesn't make it special.

            But it's done with a computer. According to the patent office, and by extension the government, that makes it completely different....

      • You mean, voting for a candidate who wants to reduce the size of government, by, for example, taking away the authority of the NHTSA to require every auto-manufacturer to include a black box will somehow make it more likely that auto-manufacturers will include black boxes and give you no recourse?
        Your argument makes no sense in a story about the government requiring a black box in every new car.
    • by houghi (78078)

      You still think that you can vote against something that companies want? I love your child like innocent view of the world.
      This will not be about what people think or want, but what companies want.
      You are powerless as your vote will be either with the companies who are for it or with the companies who are against it. At no moment will you be able to vote for what is good for you.

      • I don't agree here. For the most part the problems we're seeing surrounding voting is a problem with the enforcement of the system, not the theory of the system itself. When you vote people into office you do so in hoping that they represent your viewpoints and those that live within their respective areas. But they are only human, and they don't *have* to fully represent their people. They just have to represent themselves, which you hope is an idea that you would share.

        The system is working pretty much as
    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:51AM (#42225013) Homepage Journal

      Remember, such 'rights' are only granted against GOVERNMENT, but private parties can require whatever the hell they want.

      That is so much bullshit. [slashdot.org]

      You have a right to privacy, and it is the government's remit to protect that right against all who would trample it, just as you can't sell yourself into slavery, enter a contract that obliges your vote, or dictate that an employee or renter go to church. And with your examples, you don't get to put an asterisk and say "except where denied by law" when you say stupid shit like that, it's an absurdity. It's saying "this categorical statement is true, except where it isn't".

      And the government didn't give us that right, it exists simply because we demand it of them. It's funny to see the libertarian herp-a-derps get that backward, treating the Constitution like it was a magic freedom fountain from which the rights flow.

    • You failed to address the main issue of the article. You know where the NHTSA is expected to pass a regulation requiring these in every car. What is troubling about this is that it is not Congress passing a law mandating these. If Congress was passing a law mandating these, you could raise up a movement to vote out of office everyone who voted for it. However, since it is a bureaucracy that is doing it it is much harder to get at those responsible. A congressman who actually supports this regulation could i
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Paraphrased from a decade ago on Slashdot:

    "That's the downside to driving around a 1500 lb chunk of steel and aluminum. You aren't allowed to hit anyone with it."

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:08AM (#42224745) Journal

    ...of course, it becomes a 'privacy concern' to the government, when a government official is the one whose 'privacy' is being exposed.

    You know, one of those 'elected public officials' who probably should have the least expectation of privacy from their voting public?

  • Dangerous driving is epidemic in the United States. This is a sensible response to a massive public health problem. What we really need is driverless cars and the abolition of consumer operation of vehicles, but in the meantime let's have:

    (1) Much stricter licensing requirements, including mandatory defensive driving courses and road tests required for renewal, paid for by much higher license fees.
    (2) Strict enforcement of traffic laws, including red light cameras and speeding cameras.
    (3) A complete e
    • I agree to a point, but for the most part some of your recommendations have to be balanced with the needs of the country. Drivers losing their licenses for injuries is a bit much considering the US as a whole has rather abysmal public transportation. A suspension of a license with remediation is fine and should be encouraged, as long as fault is established.

      I disagree with the end of "right turn on red", but I do think it should be more strictly enforced. Right turn on red is AFTER STOP, but most people ten
    • Re:About time (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tibit (1762298) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:51AM (#42225011)

      What's wrong with right turn on red? You look around, if the way is clear, you go. Simple enough.

      The major difference between the European and U.S. approach is that stricter licensing laws would pretty much put a large part of population out of work. In most European cities you can live just fine without a car. For the majority of the U.S. population: forget it. You won't get your groceries, you won't get to work, you won't be able to do anything much. Sometimes you won't even be able to go for a walk.

      • Some intersections dont have the proper sight lines to support turning right against a red, or traffic situations might not allow (like near a major freeway interchange). Of the ones i see in CA, it is obvious why it was setup that way.
    • (2) Strict enforcement of traffic laws, including red light cameras and speeding cameras.

      I'm all for stricter enforcement of traffic laws, but red light cameras simply don't work [schneier.com].

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      "A complete end to "right turn on red"."

      In my experience, places where you can't turn right on a red are more dangerous. Drivers turning right on red lights stop, look, then turn. Drivers who have to wait hit the gas on a green and run over pedestrians. Frequently they only see the green light because they've been texting during the red.

    • by Khashishi (775369)

      Too many people live in suburbs where not being able to drive means utter dependency. The problem with democracy is, if everyone wants to drive, then we aren't going to erect a lot of meaningful barriers against it.

    • Safety, safety, safety. Thanks for the TSA!

  • by amiga3D (567632) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:23AM (#42224817)

    Looking at the picture of the car and having been in several high speed accidents I find it hard to believe he did not have his belt on. I got thrown out the back window of a Chevy Suburban in an accident where I was doing about 80mph and I got beat to hell and spent 2 weeks in the hospital. After that I started wearing my seat belt but didn't really slow down until years later. High speed accidents are unbelievably violent and often even people properly belted die or are seriously injured. I hit a guard rail at 50mph and even belted I couldn't believe how much it hurt. I had an 80 pound toolbox in the hatchback and it smashed through the backseat and crushed the passenger seat against the dash. Thankfully I was alone in the car. If this guy really wasn't wearing a seat belt then he's the luckiest SOB around.

    • Re:Seatbelt? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PlusFiveTroll (754249) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:36AM (#42224889) Homepage

      That's the particular problem with this 'black box' is people are going to think it's like an airplanes black box. Airplanes have people looking at them to make sure all the sensors are working. Your car, maybe once a year at inspection. I have an older car that the seat belt sensor sometimes says I'm not buckled in, which is wrong, I feel naked without the buckle on. But, if I got in a wreck and the sensor showed me not buckled in, I'd have a job of proving I was.

      I have a feeling that lawyers will turn this in to a fiasco of prove your 'black box' isn't making shit up, in which they will be right to do.

      • by Tom (822)

        In a well-working court, no individual piece of evidence alone is sufficient. The sum is what matters.

        So if eye-witnesses say that they are sure you were driving damn fast, and the impact damage is examined by an expert who concludes you were doing at least 70, and the black box says you were driving at 74.5 at the time of impact, then the evidence is conclusive.

        If the eye-witnesses say you were the same speed as everyone else, and the impact gives and estimate in line with that, while the blax-box says you

        • by sgtrock (191182)

          What eye witnesses? In most cases the only witnesses to a car crash are the participants. Everyone else is long gone by the time the cops show up to take statements.

          Personally, I have a lot more faith that an impact analysis than either of the other two options. It's going to have a lot more basis in reality than a magic black box that has gone through 10 years plus of weather extremes with no maintenance check whatsoever or any (notoriously inaccurate) eye witness account.

      • by Khashishi (775369)

        Make it the driver's responsibility to keep the black box in working order, in the same manner as headlights and blinkers.

    • by tibit (1762298)

      Agreed. The crash didn't happen at 100mph. I think he might have been driving 100mph at a point before the crash.

  • If these "black boxes" were installed (hidden away) in all new cars for years -- then why is the new law needed?

    Since 1996 IIRC all new cars sold in Merika had to be equipped with a *Uniform Plug Interface* called OBD2 so independent mechanics and civilians could access the CPU and associated subCUs and sensors' information, and reset dash warning lights. They were in no way hidden away -- in fact, the position of the access plug is specified quite clearly in the reg so it will be easy to find.

    ECUs that re

  • I was stopped by a full of attitude cop, for what he claimed was "speeding". Even though he had no radar gun, he claimed I was doing 50 in a 35mph zone. A lie, I was doing 35. I asked him how he determined that and he said he "paced" me. He was nosing around trying to find something to charge me with, when I said, well, I won't disagree with you, but my car has a data logger, so I guess we''l have to sort it out in court. He wheeled around with a mad look on his face and asked me to explain. I told him that
  • ... I'm so glad I got to be a kid in the 80's. Not all of us survived, but we had some epic car rides.

  • 100mph no belt a crash and he walks away?

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