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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOEVEN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Minnesota for joining me this afternoon. Today we are introducing the Driver Privacy Act. I am very pleased to sponsor that legislation with the good Senator from Minnesota. We have a great group that has joined us as we introduce this bill today. This is all about protecting people's privacy in regard to their automobile.

Every automobile that will be made going forward, over 90 percent, and something like 96 percent of the automobiles made now have a black box. This is actually silver, but we call it a black box because it is an event data recorder. It records information about your automobile. Ninety-six percent, I think, of automobiles made now have them, but the U.S. Department Of Transportation is requiring this year that every vehicle have an event data recorder in it.

The Senator from Minnesota and I believe that should be the owner's information and that information should not be released without the owner's consent. We already have a good group who have joined us in the endeavor, including an equal number of Republicans and Democrats: Senator Johanns from Nebraska, Senator Angus King from Maine, Senator Kirk from Illinois, Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, Senator Saxby Chambliss from Georgia, Senator Michael Bennet from Colorado, Senator Roy Blunt from Missouri, Senator Mazie Hirono from Hawaii, Senator Johnny Isakson from Georgia, Senator Mark Begich from Alaska, Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah, and Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon.

It is absolutely an equal number of Republicans and Democrats from across the United States have joined together, recognizing people are concerned about their privacy and we need to make sure their privacy is protected.

I would like to make a few further introductory comments with the help of these charts and then turn to my colleague from Minnesota for her comments as well. We have seen with the NSA, with the IRS, with the Affordable Care Act, and with a whole range of issues that people believe what is going on, not only in government but with technology, is that their privacy is at risk these days and it is very much a concern. Many people do not realize that this event data recorder is in their car. It records all kinds of information, and in fact the Federal Government is requiring that this device be in their car. Neither is there a limitation on the amount of data that the device can record nor is there a law that protects individuals' privacy to make sure the owner of the car decides who gets that information, other than under very specific circumstances which I will take a minute to go through.

What kind of data gets recorded by your event data recorder, this black box that is included in your car? There are more than 45 different data points that are in fact recorded right now. Again, the manufacturer can change this--add to it. There are no limitations or restrictions or guidelines or requirements on what manufacturers can have the event data recorder do. Right now it records things like speed, braking, engine, seatbelt usage, driver information, passenger information, steering, airbags, and crash details. As I say, at this point the manufacturer determines what goes into that black box in terms of what its capabilities are.

Just to give a sense, if you delve further, for example, engine--just pick one here: ``Number of times engine was started since being manufactured prior to a crash.'' Obviously the idea here with the event data recorder is that it provides information just like an event data recorder on an airplane. In the event of a crash, it provides information about the accident.

It is recording this information in a loop on a continuous basis, and it retains it for a short period of time and constantly updates it.

For example, for your engine, it can record the number of times the engine was started since being manufactured prior to a crash. It can record the number of times the engine was started since being manufactured prior to the EDR data download that is taken in case the box is removed and the information is taken and there isn't a crash. It can record how fast the engine was running. That is just 1 of the 45 data points, but it shows the kind of information that is recorded and can be extracted from the black box.

So what does our legislation do? It is very simple and very straightforward. The Driver Privacy Act provides that the data from your EDR in your car cannot be extracted or taken by another party other than under very specific circumstances, and that means it cannot be done without your consent unless it is authorized by a court of law or the information is retrieved pursuant to NHTSA, which is the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, recall or the information is needed in the event of a medical emergency, essentially unless there is some kind of recall on the car--and then they can't disclose any data about you as an individual. It is macrodata. But other than that, without your consent, that information can only be taken from you by a court of law or in the event of a medical emergency, and that is done, obviously, for the very reason you have the black box in the car--safety, right?

Law enforcement might be getting it pursuant to a court order. They can't just take it; they have to have a court order. If you are in a car accident and they need that information because of a medical emergency, then there is a special condition to take it.

In developing these, we were very careful to work both with the organizations that advocate privacy as well as the automobile dealers, the insurance industry, and law enforcement. We consulted with stakeholders, such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Heritage, AAA, the Auto Alliance, the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Again, we wanted to make sure the law enforcement issues were covered as well as the ACLU. We have a broad and diverse group that has been consulted and that we have worked with in putting together this information.

Fourteen States have their own laws on this issue. I have highlighted the 14 different States that have passed laws that, in fact, assure you that this information is your information and cannot be taken from you without your consent other than through a court order or in the case of a medical emergency. But when you leave your State and you are driving in another State, you are no longer protected. So even though 14 States have stepped up and said: Yes, this is something we need to do--in fact, it was something we did when I was Governor in my State. Not only are the other States not protected, but you are not protected either when you drive outside your State, which all of us do on many occasions. So that is why we need a Federal law.

The reality is this technology is evolving and developing. This technology is going to continue to develop with all kinds of other aspects--obviously now we have GPS--and all the different things that are being done with automobiles. In many cases these are things people want, but they need to know their privacy is protected, and that is what we are doing here. We are doing it in a way that we made sure we continue to assure law enforcement, first responders, and manufacturers that the safety issues are being dealt with, and at the same time assure American citizens and consumers that their privacy rights are being respected and protected as required under the Fourth Amendment of our Constitution.

With that, I will turn to my esteemed colleague from Minnesota and again thank her and her staff for the work they have done on this bill. With her background in law enforcement, she truly understands the issues and has been invaluable in putting this legislation together. Again, I thank her and ask her for her comments.


Mr. HOEVEN. Madam President, I thank Senator Klobuchar for joining me on this legislation and working to develop a great group of 14 original cosponsors.

Senator Klobuchar brings such a great background as a prosecutor in the law enforcement industry and truly understands law enforcement issues, safety issues, and the informational benefits there are with not only event data recorders, but also understands the need to protect individual privacy.

As I think we both said very clearly here on the Senate floor, this is a technology that is new and evolving. It is not just that this is a new and evolving technology where new capabilities are being added all the time, we don't know what additional capabilities will be added.

But now the Federal Government is requiring that this device be in every single automobile made. So when the Federal Government--the U.S. Department of Transportation, NHTSA, the safety branch--steps up and says: OK, we are going to require this device to be in every single car, we need to make sure we are also providing the privacy that goes with it that assures our citizens that their Fourth Amendment rights will be protected.

Again, I think the Senator from Minnesota makes a really great point that when we look at some of these areas in terms of whether it is NSA, IRS, or other areas, people feel there wasn't enough work done on the front end to protect their personal privacy, so we are in a catchup situation. Let's not do that when every single citizen across this country owns or their family owns or has access to some type of automobile. That is what we are trying to do.

Again, as the technology develops we need to understand what the ramifications are and how to protect privacy. I think, on behalf of both of us, we are appreciative that we have 14 Senators engaged already, and we look to add, and we are open to ideas on making sure this is the right kind of legislation that addresses safety but ultimately protects the privacy of our citizens.

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