Massachusetts bill would limit access to vehicle data recorders

| 4/3/2006

Big Brother might have his eye on black box data from vehicles, but an effort before Massachusetts state lawmakers would make it harder for the information to be used against drivers of passenger vehicles.

The state’s House unanimously approved a bill that would require the disclosure of the presence of “event data recorders,” or “black boxes” in the owner’s manual for vehicles. The bill has been sent to the Senate for further consideration.

Current Massachusetts law doesn’t require vehicle owners to be notified that vehicles are sold with EDRs. The boxes could include information on the vehicle’s speed, direction of travel, location, steering performance, braking performance, seat-belt status and accident information.

Insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers and other interested third parties can access data after an accident. In many newer vehicles, the information is automatically uploaded to a communication center immediately following an accident, the Milford Daily News reported.

Supporters of the bill say people should be informed about the presence of these devices. Opponents disagree with the claim EDRs invade a driver’s privacy. They say driving is a privilege, not a right.

The bill also would give owners control over any data collected.

Insurance companies and auto manufacturers would only be allowed to access the data with the owner’s consent or through a court order.

“Insurance companies shouldn’t be able to just take this information,” Rep. David Torrisi, D-North Andover, told the Daily News. “It’s the consumer who has bought and paid for it.”

H4707 is in the Senate Ethics and Rules Committee.