Privacy concerns press Congress to legislate vehicle black box data recorders

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is taking a hands-off approach to mandating the installation of vehicle data recorders, -the manufacturer and after market installed safety and crash data monitoring devices- preferring legislation to regulation.

The “black box” recorder can sense and preserve vehicle speed, braking and seat belt use, which is of interest to insurance carriers and statisticians. Enter the privacy advocates and consumer watchdog agencies, all of which are debating who will get their hands on the data that can reveal personal driving habits.

The privacy concerns have prompted nine states — Arkansas, California, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia — to pass laws requiring carmakers to tell consumers whether vehicles are equipped with recorders and barring anyone from downloading data from the devices without the owners’ permission. California and New York also prohibit car rental companies from using the data to impose extra charges.

Another 18 states are considering legislation that will shape how the information from the vehicle driver activity recorders is used. There is no uniform standard in the functioning of the devices, notification of consumers or authorized use of the data. Congressional Quarterly reports

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