Limited access to ‘black boxes’ sought in Indiana

| 2/6/2008

A bill in the Indiana House would make it harder for Big Brother-type data from any motor vehicles to be used against drivers.

Sponsored by Rep. Earl Harris, D-East Chicago, the bill would require the disclosure of the presence of “event data recorders,” or “black boxes,” in new vehicles. A person who “sells, rents, leases or otherwise conveys” a new motor vehicle would be required to notify the owner both orally and in written form about the presence of an EDR and its capabilities.

A similar legislative effort in Kentucky also is under consideration.

Indiana law now doesn’t require vehicle owners or operators to be notified that vehicles contain EDRs. The boxes could include information on the vehicle’s speed, direction of travel, location, steering performance, braking performance and seat-belt status as well as collision information.

Insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers and other interested third parties can access data after a wreck. In many newer vehicles, the information is automatically uploaded to a communication center immediately following a wreck, according to published reports.

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 prohibit use of the data available for surveillance, determining ownership or identifying occupants unless a search warrant is issued.

At least 20 states have entertained efforts in recent years to regulate information from black boxes. California was the first state to regulate the recorders in 2004. Since then, at least 10 states have approved regulations for the devices.

The Indiana bill – HB1324 – is in the House Roads and Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Indiana in 2008, click here.