Black Boxes in Cars: Making Roads Safer or Violating Privacy?

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As many citizens continue to be skeptical and weary of the NSA, and government all together, keeping tabs on their phone and internet activity, it probably wasn’t a great time to begin mentioning black boxes in cars.

Despite these black boxes being around in 1990, and appearing in over 90% of all new vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants every new vehicle sold in the United States to have a black box by September of 2014.

Originally, black boxes were used for motor vehicle safety purposes, today they are used for investigators that can use the “event data recorder” to paint a detailed picture of the seconds before and after an accident. This information, gathered from sensors underneath the seats, can be used for insurance companies and even by law enforcement officials.

So, what’s the concern?

Consumer advocacy groups claim that the data gathered from a vehicle’s black box can be abused. Khaliah Barnes, from the consumer group the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said “These cars are equipped with computers that collect massive amounts of data,” and without guidelines private information could be given to third parties.

However, David L. Strickland, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrator, stated that black boxes “provide critical safety information that might not otherwise be available to NHTSA to evaluate what happened during a crash — and what future steps could be taken to save lives and prevent injuries.”

Some lawmakers are pushing for either more guidelines or giving consumers the option of a turn-off switch. However, the NHTSA doesn’t want people to be concerned over their privacy. The agency claims that black boxes will help people after an accident and the data could be used to prevent future accidents.

For all car owners out there, how do you feel about a black box being placed in every new vehicle that’s manufactured?

Are you afraid that it violates your privacy Or, do you think that it will be a tool that can make the post-accident events as stress-free as possible?

Source: The Boston Globe and NPR

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