Reps. Capuano and Bono File Bill to Protect Auto Owners' Privacy
Legislation Calls for Disclosure of Presence and a Disable Function for Automobile "Black Boxes"

June 15, 2006

In an effort to protect consumer privacy, Congressman Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) and Congresswoman Mary Bono (R-Calif.) introduced legislation calling for automobile dealers to disclose to consumers the presence of "black boxes" — event data recorders — in new automobiles. The bill, H.R. 5609, also requires manufacturers to provide consumers with the option of enabling and disabling such devices in future automobiles.

"Consumers have a right to know if this type of technology is present in their automobile and they should have the option of disabling the recording function if they choose to do so. This is a basic issue of privacy," stated Congressman Mike Capuano, who introduced similar legislation in the 108th Congress.

"Many motorists are unaware that their driving habits are being monitored and recorded by the black boxes in their cars," said Congresswoman Bono. "Similar concerns regarding the impact on consumers prompted me to introduce legislation to stop the practice of computer spyware programs that are unknowingly downloaded to monitor a user's internet habits. In the same way, these black boxes raise both serious consumer privacy and 'right to know' issues."

"Black boxes," or "event data recorders" are often installed in new cars to record how drivers react in the seconds leading up to accidents. According to Capuano and Bono, most consumers are not aware that their vehicles are recording data that has the potential of being used against them in a civil or criminal proceeding, or by their insurer to increase rates. There are no federal laws clarifying the rights of a vehicle owner to ownership of the recorded data. In the absence of this, several states have begun to create different standards of ownership and rights for recorded data.

H.R. 5609 will require automobile dealers to disclose to consumers if an event data recorder is installed in their vehicles, the data collection capabilities of such a device and how such data may be used. The legislation also requires that an event data recorder include a function whereby the consumer has the option of enabling or disabling the recording function. Once disabled, the legislation states that the recording function shall not resume functioning until the consumer chooses to reinstate it.


Contact: Alison M. Mills (617) 621-6208