Article first published as Black Boxes In Your Car, Safety Issue Or Easier To Apply Blame? on Technorati.
From Wired.com. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a government agency, wants to propose that all cars are required to have a Black Box event recorder. Similar to those in airliners, they would record statistics as you drive. Their claim is that the data would be used in the investigation of an accident. However, I see a far more privacy violating, unethical, and dangerous practice that will come out of having your car recording how you drive.
Automakers have already tried to say that the data recorded doesn’t belong and shouldn’t be accessible by the car owners. That means that even though you bought and paid for your $35,000 SUV, you don’t have any rights to use it to 100%. Second, you have no idea what is being recorded. Speed, brakes, engine statistics would be the basic data points you would think are getting stored, but what about position? With every car pretty much having a GPS installed in them, why couldn’t they store your coordinates as you drive? If you have your seat belt on or not? The volume of your radio? How many people are in the car? If your car has a camera system, who says they are not taking a picture every 30 seconds and storing it? The cars today have several computers all over the place to control fuel, brakes, electrical, etc… all it takes is a small change to send a data point to another computer that records it.
In the event of a horrible accident, it might be useful to have that data to determine what happened. Especially when deaths are involved. However, what about the smaller fender benders. The T-Bone crunches at intersections, rear ends, the dents making type of accidents that happen every single day? That data may or may not be useful or tell you anything more… unless you are the insurance company.
If the insurance company could access your car’s black box data they could refuse payment if it shows you broke the law. This is where black boxes get scary on what they could be used for. Let’s say you are in traffic on the freeway and the flow of traffic is 60 MPH, but the posted is 55 MPH and you rear end someone. What’s to say the insurance company won’t say that you were speeding, violating the law, and it was 100% your fault and refuse payment? How do they know? Because the black box recorded your speed but also was recording your GPS location. The insurance company put those into a national speed limit traffic map and knew what the posted speed limit was where you were.
There is an advantage and positive that could come out of having a black box tracker in cars. However, unless these types of uses are called out and the data recorded prevents the exploitation, insurance companies will go down that road. Why wouldn’t they? The fewer claims they have to pay the more money they get to keep. Law enforcement won’t have to ask you questions to where you went, your car will tell them. If you break the law, for whatever reason, the data will show your guilt.
The 4th Amendment is losing it’s teeth as the policy makers find more creative side step it.
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Binary Blogger has spent 20 years in the Information Security space currently providing security solutions and evangelism to clients. From early web application programming, system administration, senior management to enterprise consulting I provide practical security analysis and solutions to help companies and individuals figure out HOW to be secure every day.