Sunday, June 23, 2013

Your Car is Reporting You

Think about your morning: You gather the last of your belongings before heading off to work.
As you exit the house, you unlock your car. It beeps, the headlights flash, you approach your vehicle and get behind the wheel.

You start the engine, back out of the driveway and drive down the road.

Whether that drive is one mile or one hundred miles, there’s something that you should know…

You’re being tracked.

You see, inside your car there’s a “black box” similar to the ones found in airplanes. And it logs all of your information from startup to shutdown.

And the government has mandated that every new car sold by September 1, 2014 must have a black box on board. In fact, 96% of all 2013 vehicles have these black boxes.

But a couple members of Congress are introducing legislation that would require a user-friendly “off switch.”

Origins of Intrusion

If you happened to read your owner’s manual cover-to-cover, you’d probably know what I’m talking about. But, if you’re like the vast majority of people on this planet, there’s a strong chance that this is the first you’re hearing about these black boxes.

Inside most of today’s vehicles, a recorder the size of a deck of cards is lodged in unspecified locations. This “black box” is called an Event Data Recorder (EDR), and it was initially intended to track “crash data,” which consists of moment-by-moment statistics of the events leading up to a collision.

Tracking things like vehicle speed, engine speed, throttle position, braking status, steering angle, force of impact, seatbelt status and airbag deployment.

This type of data was initially designed for motor vehicle safety enhancements. But now it’s being used as key evidence in civilian and insurance court cases…

No Opting Out

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is preparing regulations for full EDR implementation starting next year. The problem is the NHTSA doesn’t want your EDR to have an off switch. Heck, they don’t even want you to know where it’s located.

Representatives Mike Capuano (D-MA) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) want to change that. They believe that you should have full control over your vehicle’s black box.

You see, many folks have been completely sandbagged by their EDR in a court of law… a device they didn’t even know was in their vehicle! And Capuano and Sensenbrenner believe that’s totally unfair.

The two representatives have proposed legislation that would require every manufacturer to divulge information about the black box before any buyer drives the car off the lot. 

Additionally, the legislation would give full ownership of the data collected on the black box to the vehicle titleholder.

That is, of course, if the titleholder wants the EDR turned on in the first place…which brings us to the most important part of the legislation. Both representatives believe you should have the right to turn off your EDR if you don’t feel like being traced.

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