Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today introduced their Driver Privacy Act, legislation that protects a driver's personal privacy by making it clear that the owner of a vehicle is also the owner of any information collected by an Event Data Recorder (EDR).
An EDR has the ability to continuously collect at least 45 pieces of information about a vehicle's operation that can be retrieved at any time. This includes direction, speed, seatbelt usage and other data. The senators' legislation would ensure that the vehicle owner controls the data to protect personal privacy.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that more than 96 percent of new 2013 car models are currently equipped with an EDR, but in December 2012 the agency proposed rules that would mandate the installation of EDRs in all light-duty vehicles. The proposal raised widespread questions and concerns regarding the ownership of the data, which prompted Senators Hoeven and Klobuchar to craft legislation that would protect drivers anywhere in the United States.
In fact, 14 states, including North Dakota, have passed laws related to EDRs. States with laws protecting drivers' ownership of EDR data include Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington. North Dakota passed an EDR privacy statue in 2005, while Senator Hoeven was governor.
These state laws, however, apply only in the states that have them; drivers are unprotected in states that do not. To address privacy concerns regarding the device, the Hoeven-Klobuchar legislation specifies that data from an EDR may not be retrieved in any state unless:
Authorized by a court of law
The vehicle owner or lessee consents to the data retrieval
The information is retrieved pursuant to a NHTSA recall and all personally identifiable information is not disclosed
The information is retrieved in determining the need for emergency medical response following a motor vehicle crash (used in vehicles equipped with Advanced Automatic Crash Notification systems)
The information is retrieved for traffic safety research
"Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace, and that poses new risks to personal privacy and new concerns for the public," Hoeven said. "While EDRs can serve a useful function by helping to make cars and streets safer, access to the data should be treated as personal except under very specific circumstances. Our bill makes clear what those circumstances are and helps to ensure that government and other entities respect the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans."
"These devices can play an important role in providing information to help improve vehicle safety and to make our roads safer for everyone, but they also raise some legitimate concerns about consumer privacy," Klobuchar said. "This legislation addresses those concerns and makes clear that the owner of the vehicle is the rightful owner of the data collected by an event data recorder."
Cosponsors of the bill include Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Angus King (I-Maine), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Michael Bennet (D-Col.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Mazie Hirano (D-Hawaii) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).