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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Another Federal Assault on the 4th Amendment? "Black Boxes in Cars"

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. -4th Amendment to the US Constitution

Uncle Sam wants to ride with you whenever you go driving. Well maybe not Uncle Sam because he believes in the Constitution. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed a new rule that every light passenger vehicles (car as opposed to a truck or SUV) be equipped with an EDR  (event data recorder OR "black box') by Sep.1, 2014.

Most new cars have them, they measure lateral acceleration, pedal effort, seat belt use, wheel spin, steering wheel turn and direction.
Black box data retrieved from U.S. car accidents in a single day would provide more information than a year's worth of crash testing, says Tom Kowalick, who heads the design team that is standardizing the devices for automakers worldwide.

But he also said he fears that for all their potential good, the EDRs present a massive privacy dilemma, and an opportunity for fraudsters.
It's not the fraud that is worrisome, its the federal government.
The potential for malfeasance is huge, but so is the access EDRs give to law enforcement and insurance companies, who could download EDR data to determine whether a motorist is at fault in an accident.

But that, too. presents ethical dilemmas, should an insurer examine a customer’s pattern of speeding to withdraw coverage or increase premiums, or worse, manipulate speed data to evade an accident pay-out.

Overlaid with GPS data, or with new D.U.I. interlock technology now under consideration for all automobiles, some say the black box could become a Pandora's box of Fourth Amendment violations against unlawful search and seizure.
Jeramie Scott of the Electronic Privacy Information Center said, "We just want data to be owned by the vehicle owners so it's required that their consent is given when the data is retrieved, whether it's by insurance companies or law enforcement or others."
The government has not as of yet set rules about access to the data, and as of yet there has been no provisions for automatic collection of the Automotive Black box data. But after the revelations about the NSA program earlier in the summer can you really trust this black box information to remain in your own hands? How long before the data is automatically transferred to the govt.  Maybe not for some nefarious reason, the government can say they need to collect the information to know which highways need repairs (based on traffic), or to learn about dangerous intersections.  How long will it take for this information to be used to see where people are going, or to give traffic violations where there is no officer to write ticket?  The potential abuses of this an automotive black boxes are many.

Before anyone starts screaming paranoia or conspiracy theorist remember, when you bought you telephone did you think that the government would be storing your data? Or did you foresee a PRISM program to collect your internet information.  Many people (including myself)  believed a FISA Court would protect Americans from being spied upon, it allowed spying to occur.

This "Black Box" rule is just another opportunity for the federal or state governments to violate the 4th Amendment by conducting illegal searches.

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