Mandatory Black Boxes in Cars Raise Privacy Questions

Mandatory Black Boxes in Cars Raise Privacy Questions EFF Urges Strict Rules to Protect Drivers’ Data


For Immediate Release: Monday, February 11, 2013


Nate Cardozo
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
+1 415 436-9333 x146

Mandatory Black Boxes in Cars Raise Privacy Questions

EFF Urges Strict Rules to Protect Drivers’ Data

San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) today to include strict privacy protections for
data collected by vehicle “black boxes” to protect drivers
from long-term tracking as well as the misuse of their

Black boxes, more formally called event data recorders
(EDRs), can serve a valuable forensic function for accident
investigations, because they can capture information like
vehicle speed before the crash, whether the brake was
activated, whether the seat belt was buckled, and whether
the airbag deployed. NHTSA is proposing the mandatory
inclusion of black boxes in all new cars and light trucks
sold in America. But while the proposed rules would
require the collection of data in at least the last few
seconds before a crash, they don’t block the long-term
monitoring of driver behavior or the ongoing capture of
much more private information like audio, video, or vehicle

“The NHTSA‘s proposed rules fail to address driver privacy
in any meaningful way,” said EFF Staff Attorney Nate
Cardozo. “These regulations must include more than minimum
requirements of what should be collected and stored – they
need a reasonable maximum requirement as well.”

The current NHTSA proposal mandates a boilerplate notice to
consumers that “various systems” are being monitored. The
plan also calls for a commercial tool to be made available
to allow user access to black box data. In its comments
submitted to the NHTSA today, EFF calls for complete and
comprehensive disclosure of data collection as well as a
free and open standard to access black box information.

“The information collected by EDRs is private and must
remain private until the car owner consents to its use,”
said Cardozo. “Consumers deserve full disclosure of what
is being collected, when, and how, as well as an easy and
free way of accessing this data on their own. Having to
buy access to your own data is not reasonable. ”

In addition to submitting its own comments to the NHTSA
today, EFF also joined the Electronic Privacy Information
Center and a broad coalition of privacy, consumer rights,
and civil rights organizations in comments urging the NHTSA
to adopt specific, privacy-protecting amendments to its
proposed rules.

For EFF’s full comments submitted to the NHTSA:

For this release:

About EFF

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading
organization protecting civil liberties in the digital
world. Founded in 1990, we defend free speech online, fight
illegal surveillance, promote the rights of digital
innovators, and work to ensure that the rights and freedoms
we enjoy are enhanced, rather than eroded, as our use of
technology grows. EFF is a member-supported organization.
Find out more at


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