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Black Boxes In Cars Raise Privacy Concerns 297

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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  • So wait now (Score:1, Insightful)

    by AdamRich ( 2790901 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:22AM (#42224543)
    The guy broke the law, tried to lie about it and now that's called privacy concern? Oh the hypocrisy.

    Look, US can be a little old on those things. That's why I live in Europe where people are actually held responsible for their actions. You don't get to say it's a privacy concern if you go around driving over people and shoot them with a shotgun!

    You know what, if you kill a guy with your car at least take responsibility and try to work it out with the police. Don't lie about it, you have no shame!
  • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:29AM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:30AM (#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.

  • Re:So wait now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:31AM (#42224587)

    The guy broke the law, tried to lie about it and now that's called privacy concern? Oh the hypocrisy.

    He's a politician. It's not hypocrisy; it's simply his preferred form of reality.

  • Re:So wait now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cley Faye ( 1123605 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:42AM (#42224629) Homepage
    - Last time I checked it wasn't either
    - Yes, even americans do wander in some "foreign" websites (as if it meant anything on internet) and voice their opinions. What's wrong with it either way ?
  • by Iamthecheese ( 1264298 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:50AM (#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.
  • Re:So wait now (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aurispector ( 530273 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:55AM (#42224685)

    If you've done nothing wrong then you have nothing to hide. Now show me your identity papers and PICK UP THAT CAN!!!

    Euros are so used to being "subjects" rather than citizens they don't understand that freedom means you shouldn't have to submit to constant surveillance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:11AM (#42224755)

    Not so much this guy. He drove a government-owned vehicle and has a public function so his duties include giving a good example, and so he has less expectation of privacy. And yes, I'd be inclined to allow law enforcement access to such data in the case of a deadly incident. Though "breaking the law" is debatable as road rules generally aren't "law", merely rules. Yes, there's usually a difference, though I haven't the faintest about the details of the road code(s) relevant to this.

    But there is a privacy concern, and if you ignore the guy and his incident in TFA, it's pretty clear later on what the problem is. It's about adding recording devices to cars without the owners knowledge or consent. That was a problem before the law requiring this came into force, and it's still a problem now. There is also the problem of reliability of the things that may or may not be quite the same as the perception (electronic thus infallible, just like "biometrics" is generally taken to be infallible but is anything but). Aeronautical black boxes are tightly regulated. These things, not so much.

    What if the storage fails in a way that shows incorrect data and you do end up in an accident when only driving 50 but the device showing you've been zigzagging and doing 90 (which you were just before it burned out, but on a privately owned racecourse a couple weeks prior)? Or what if someone manipulated the recorder to frame you? It's unlikely, but not impossible, and if this sort of thing is going to be used as evidence against the owner of the vehicle it had better have safeguards and tamper evidence mechanisms built-in.

    And then there's the question of who owns the data and who may access it when, at what cost, how, that sort of thing. On top of that there's the problem of various promises made ("only use for law enforcement, honest!") when such promises are routinely broken in similar situations elsewhere.

    So yeah, plenty of problems with this practice. The example isn't a particularly good one, but laws turning your car into evidence against you is a bit much, innit? Then just gimme a robotic car and have someone else be liable for its mistakes, thanks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:26AM (#42224831)

    The actions you take in your car bear a much higher risk if KILLING ME than the actions you take inside your home.

    While most people don't secretly build bombs in their homes and blow themselves and their neighbors up, many, many people exercise negligence while driving which does kill (or badly injure) their neighbors (the highest cause of death is driving through your neighborhood).

    So, this difference in risk and consequences justifies a difference in handling.

    As a good driver who has been victimized by a bad driver who broke the law, crashed into me, lied about it, and managed to get ME ticketed for it, I am happy to accept a black box in my car. It can be used to demonstrate my innocence, and hopefully to prevent other drivers from driving as badly as they do.

    I love my right to privacy, and I love YOUR right to privacy, in our homes and on our computers. But not while barreling around on public roads.

  • Re:So wait now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:28AM (#42224843)

    I live in the United States, where people enjoy the right to not testify against themselves. That means nothing if a person is forced to pay for and travel with a device that will record possibly incriminating testimony which must then be surrendered to the courts. Sorry, but the right to be free from self-incrimination is the historically progressive innovation here. What you're talking about belongs to the days of the Inquisition. From the way you tell it, it seems like it's the Old World that's a little behind on the times.

    In this case the vehicle was not owned by him, it is owned by the employer i.e. the government who has every right to sue and claim damages of their property and also have the right to instal any sort of device on their car without requiring the consent but the after disclosing the fact to the user.

  • Re:So wait now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdfl[ ]com ['at.' in gap]> on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:30AM (#42224859) Journal
    The so-called choice to buy another car is moot in this regard once all car manufacturers have them.
  • Re:So wait now (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tibit ( 1762298 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:37AM (#42224897)

    I think you're taking things a wee bit too far. Cars can have black boxes, that's IMHO good. If, during a legal proceeding, someone subpoenas said black box, that's usually perfectly within the bounds of the legal process in the U.S. Unless the court seals the records (rare for traffic cases), everything that came up and got admitted into the record is a public record. It's not any different than subpoenaing human witnesses of the accident.

  • Re:So wait now (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:37AM (#42224899) Homepage

    Okay, so you reckon that the evidence he was speeding and not wearing a seatbelt is "self-incrimination"? So by the same token, if I cut your throat does that mean that the knife I have that's smeared with your blood is inadmissible because handing it over would be "self-incrimination"?

    Good to know...

  • by Jonathan_S ( 25407 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:38AM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:49AM (#42224989)

    Just look at what you wrote, think about the meaning you were apparently trying to convey, then about what meaning was actually conveyed.

    America's a big place with lots of different people. Some of them are interested in the wider world, some aren't. I've met some of the most ignorant (racist) and provincial people in Europe, but I don't extrapolate that to EVERY EUROPEAN.

  • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:51AM (#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. []

    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.

  • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @11:11AM (#42225123)
    So you're willing to give up your freedom for security? Ben Franklin had a saying for you.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @11:52AM (#42225365)

    And shove it up your ass. The U.S. operates this way because, and I'll point it out since you can't remember your own contintent's history, tyrants used to dictate our every move from 2,000 miles away, almost 300 years ago. We have certain freedoms which protect individual rights because of our experience with their abuse. Let's also point out that EUROPE is PARTICULARLY NEW on the INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS front. They couldn't completely come to terms with the concept until the 1950s European Convention on Human Rights was convened and votes to enact a large set of human rights regulations through out it's member countries.

    By the way, we still don't trust high and mighty assholes that live 2,000 miles away.

  • by cheekyjohnson ( 1873388 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @03:00PM (#42226699)

    Ben Franklin was NOT proposing anarchy.

    Neither was anyone else. Nice try, though.

  • Re:So wait now (Score:4, Insightful)

    by David_Hart ( 1184661 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @05:16PM (#42227881)

    Although IANAL, I see little difference (legally) in a black box and testing for DUIs (after the fact), if the information can only be retrieved after the fact and not for survelliance purposes. Your blood (or breath) records an inexact history of your recent alcohol consumption. The police officer that stops under suspicion of DUI has recorded an inexact history of the resultant car actions. This black box will presumably record an inexact history of your recent car command inputs and resultant car actions, which if only available after suspicion is almost the same thing.

    Lets predict what the "blackbox" roll-out would look like:

    v1.0 - Basic Blackbox
    v2.0 - Basic Blackbox + GPS (Navigation edition)
    v3.0 - Blackbox Enhanced Navigation edition (terrorist tracking edition for Homeland Security)
    v4.0 - Blackbox Enhanced Navigation edition with Wireless (download capabilities for driver, Tablet App, etc.)
    v5.0 - Blackbox Enhanced Wireless Navigation edition (download capabilities for Police)
    v6.0 - Blackbox Advanced Wireless Navigation edition (download capabilities with Kill Switch for Police)
    v7.0 - Blackbox Gold Wireless Navigation edition (automatic ticketing & reporting)

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