Is Your Car Spying on You?

by SMD 

65% of all cars made in the last two years [2004 & 2005 models] are fitted with ‘Black Box’ style information recording systems. This raises a couple of concerns.

The obvious one is the privacy consequences. The manufactures insist that is minimal, since the recorder overwrites itself every 5 seconds if the car isn’t involved in an accident. Also, if you bought a car in the last 2 years, were you told that it had one of these recorders in it?

The second concern is what happens with this information if you do get into an accident:

Information gathered on black boxes — typically everything from speed, brake pressure, seat belt use and air bag deployment — has already been used in determining guilt in criminal and civil cases across the country.

This quote from Fox news. The car insurance companies must have some kind of serious lobbying talent [$$$] to get something like this implemented. A black box for an airplane, yes I can see the need, but for an insurance company or civil suit, I just don’t see the mass breech of privacy being worth a couple thousand bucks. Also you can bet those boxes aren’t tracking information that could be used against the car companies in the cases of faulty parts or manufacturing errors that cause accidents.

The last thing that occurs to me is, since these boxes are unlikely to be cheap, who do you think is paying for them? The insurance companies? Doubtful, most likely you and I are paying to spy on ourselves.

Here’s some places where you can follow up with this issue:

Popular Mechanics: Be Careful Big Brother is Watching
Wired: Driving Big Brother
KDKA: Bill Puts Vehicle “Black Boxes” in Hot Seat a story about a recent congressional bill requiring car manufacturers to inform car buyers of the Black Box devices.

This also reminds me of the recent stories of people getting fines for speeding from car rental companies because they were wired with GPS and the company had tracked their speed while driving the rental car.

This from a car rental contract:

Buried in the fine print of the rental contracts was a clause stating that “Vehicles driven in excess of the posted speed limit will be charged $150 per occurrence. All our vehicles are GPS equipped.”

Scary, when businesses implement strategies like these which are pure cash grab and offer zero value to their customers.

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One Response to “Is Your Car Spying on You?”

  1. Duane Gran on June 13th, 2007 2:38 am

    While I can understand objections based on privacy, there is an obvious value added benefit for drivers with this technology. While the black box may condemn a bad driver, it may very well exonerate a good driver who is false accused of causing an accident. Whether it is right or fair to charge every motorists is quite another matter, as you point out.

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