If You Don’t Know, Now You Know: The Black Box in Your Car


This post is the first in an ongoing series here on Bytes & Belief.  The goal of “If You Don’t Know…” is to educate our readers on how data is being collected about them, many times without their knowledge. Regardless of whether you’re cool with it or creeped out by it, we all deserve to know when and how our behavior is being monitored.

For our inaugural post, I selected this article from our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It discusses the use of EDRs (Event Data Recorders) in today’s new automobiles. EDRs are small computers that connect and record real-time data about an automobile’s systems, such as current MPH, brakes and throttle position, and airbags.

While this data may be used for the proper operation of the vehicle, it can also be very valuable to others, such as insurance companies (“How often does this driver speed?”) and law enforcement (“Did the driver hit the brakes before the crash?”). EDRs are regularly subpoenaed during court cases. Insurance companies, such as Progressive Insurance, are using this data to set car insurance rates. And since the information is embedded in the auto manufacturer’s proprietary software, consumers DO NOT have access to this information.

As the EFF article explains, there are currently no regulations around what data can legally be collected and who is allowed access to it (For instance – auto companies could also collect your GPS location data). The National Highway Safety and Transportation Agency is currently proposing that EDRs be mandatory in all new vehicles by September 2014.

Check out the article and post your thoughts in the comments…

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