Your Black Box, Your Data: Ownership & Privacy?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) first outlined what the federal government considered to be an Event Data Recorder (EDR) on a motor vehicles in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49 Subtitle B Chapter V Part 563 (effective 2013). This code, better known as 49 CFR part 563, set minimum standards regarding EDR data points and design [1], however this is not a mandatory installation regulation placed upon manufactures. NHTSA decided with the current rate of EDR installation in new vehicles, a mandate would be mildly effective[2].

After NHTSA established the parameters of an EDR, Congress would need to pass law that addressed the ownership and privacy of the data. The “Driver Privacy Act of 2015” defines EDR/vehicle owners’ privacy rights and is enforced today.

According to the Driver Privacy Act of 2015, ownership resides with the owner or lessee of the vehicle in which the EDR is installed[3]. This regulation does not address the change of ownership after an event; therefore if the vehicle is purchased after an event, the new owners will have also purchased the data recorded by the EDR. Several States have more restrictive regulations that stipulate ownership of the EDR data resides with the owner or lessee at the time of the event.

While ownership is fairly straightforward, the privacy of EDR data is a more complex issue. The owner or lessee is the only individual who can access the data, but this clause is designed with multiple exceptions[3].

  • Warrant
  • Owner Authority - Written, electronic or recorded audio consent
  • Authority to Inspect and Investigate by the NTSB or DOT, per Code of Federal Regulations Title 49 Subtitle VI Part A Chapter 301 Subchapter IV § 30166  
  • Facilitation of Emergency Medical Needs
  • Traffic Safety Research

Additionally, an owner or lessees’ legal counsel, or POA, can authorize the EDR data to be imaged.

Since most States do not restrict the ownership and privacy of EDR data beyond the Driver Privacy Act of 2015, it is important that vehicle owners know their rights in regards to EDR technology - as well as those who may try to gain access.

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[3] Pg. 402

David AtkinsonComment