Officials: Car data collection systems can lead to privacy violations


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It is pretty common that airplanes come equipped with “black boxes” that record information.

Did you know that cars come with similar data collection systems – and some states think the boxes could reveal too much personal information?

In cars, they’re called event data recorders. The devices can capture information such as speed and whether or not the driver was wearing a seat belt.

“This data that can be recorded, it can lay out all kinds of information which can be used against you,” Michael Morrison of Cottman Transmission said of the event data recorder.

Call 12 For Action learned that 17 states have passed privacy statutes that require permission from the car owner to access the data – but Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut are not among them.

“If I got in an accident and it wasn’t my fault, it would be great. But if it’s the other way around, I don’t know if I like that,” said Michelle Garland.

Telematics also lets you sync up your cellphone to you car – including your entire contact list.

If you choose to use this feature, make sure to turn off your Bluetooth when you leave the car and to clear the data when you sell it.

Garland’s BMW also has another feature that raises other privacy concerns. Its telematics system, which offers features like built in navigation, collects data on an ongoing basis.

Back in July, hackers were able to disable a Jeep through a flaw in the data collection system.

With telematics, customers can opt-out – an option unavailable with the black box since it is often connected to the airbag system.

Most states that do have provisions with event data recorders only allow the information to be downloaded with the car owner’s written consent, a court order, or for an emergency investigation.

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