Reps. Capuano and Sensenbrenner File Legislation Giving Consumers More Control over Their Vehicle’s “Black Box”

June 18, 2013

Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) have filed the “Black Box Privacy Protection Act” to give vehicle owners more control over the information collected through their car or motorcycle’s "black box" event data recorder (EDR). The legislation requires manufacturers to notify consumers if an event data recorder is installed in their vehicle, to disclose the data collection capabilities of such a device, and provide information on how data collected may be used. The bill places ownership of the data in the hands of the vehicle owner and requires owner permission before the information can be accessed. The legislation also requires manufacturers to give consumers the option of controlling the recording function in future automobiles or motorcycles that are equipped with event data recorders.

"For me, this is a basic issue of privacy. Consumers should have control over the information collected by event data recorders in their own vehicles and they should be able to exercise control over the recording function. Many consumers aren’t even aware that this technology is already in most vehicles," stated Congressman Mike Capuano.

“As a strong supporter of the Fourth Amendment and privacy rights, I believe vehicle owners should have ultimate control over information collected by their vehicle’s “black box,” including what data is recorded and who has access to it. This bill would require manufacturers to notify customers if their car is equipped with a recording device and give ownership of any information collected to the owner of the vehicle,” stated Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner.

Event data recorders, or "black boxes," are installed in vehicles to collect information leading up to an accident. They record factors such as speed and brake application. Many consumers are not aware that this data has the potential of being used against them in civil or criminal proceedings, or by their insurer to increase rates. No federal law exists to clarify the rights of a vehicle owner with respect to this recorded data.

All data collected by an EDR becomes the property of the vehicle owner under this legislation. The bill would make it illegal for anyone other than the vehicle owner to download or retrieve information without owner consent or a court order. The legislation also requires that all new cars equipped with EDRs allow the owner the option to control the recording function that cannot be restarted without the owner’s consent.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requiring that event data recorders be installed in all cars manufactured after September 1, 2014, and that the existence of the EDR be included in the owner’s manual. The Black Box Privacy Protection Act would make the disclosure more prominent and give consumers even greater choice and privacy protections. The legislation is attached.


Contact: Alison Mills (Rep. Capuano) 617-621-6208