New Bill would Ensure Personal Privacy of Automobile Data Recorder Info

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Hoeven (R-ND), and 11 other senators to introduce a bipartisan bill that protects a driver’s personal privacy by making it clear that the owner of a vehicle is also the owner of any information collected by an Event Data Recorder (EDR).

An EDR has the ability to continuously collect at least 45 pieces of information about a vehicle’s operation that can be retrieved at any time. This includes direction, speed, seatbelt usage and other data. The Driver Privacy Act would ensure that the vehicle owner controls the data to protect personal privacy.

“Automobile manufacturers have embraced new technologies that improve safety for drivers and passengers. At the same time, we must make sure that these valuable tools protect the privacy of consumers,” Bennet said. “This bill establishes commonsense protections making it clear that the information collected by EDRs belongs to vehicle owners.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that more than 96 percent of new 2013 car models are currently equipped with an EDR, but in December 2012 the agency proposed rules that would mandate the installation of EDRs in all light-duty vehicles. The proposal raised widespread questions and concerns regarding the ownership of the data, which prompted the Senators to craft legislation that would protect drivers anywhere in the United States.

Although 14 states, including Colorado, have passed state laws related to EDRs, these laws do not extend to drivers in states that have not passed such legislation; federal legislation would do just that.

To address privacy concerns regarding the device, The Hoeven-Klobuchar legislation specifies that data from an EDR may not be retrieved in any state unless:

  • Authorized by a court of law
  • The vehicle owner or lessee consents to the data retrieval
  • The information is retrieved pursuant to a NHTSA recall and all personally identifiable information is not disclosed
  • The information is retrieved in determining the need for emergency medical response following a motor vehicle crash (used in vehicles equipped with Advanced Automatic Crash Notification systems)
  • The information is retrieved for traffic safety research

Cosponsors of the bill include Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mark Begich (D-AK), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Angus King (I-ME), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Mazie Hirano (D-HI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL).