Car Black Boxes Privacy Facts

Car black boxes seem quite logical feature in vehicles considering that more people die in car accidents than in airplane crashes investigation of which primarily base on the black boxes. The causes of car accidents are not that difficult to investigate as plane crashes but there are cases that are very difficult to solve due to contradictory stories of the drivers or/and absence of witnesses of the accident. And in these cases, a car black box can be crucial piece of evidence for the investigators as well as the insurance companies. But what about privacy issues?

Car Black Box

Some civil groups have expressed concerns about privacy claiming that these devices could be used to spy on car owners. Are their concerns justified and how does a car black box affect the driver’s privacy? To be able to answer that question it is necessary to understand how a car black box works, what it records and who can gain access to the recorded data.

About 70% to 85% of drivers who own a car that is not older from five years have a car black box installed beneath their seat or behind the dashboard. The information about a car black box is found in the owners manual if you are not sure whether your car is equipped with the device or not. If you have one, there is nothing you can do about it because it is fully integrated into the car’s electronics which means that you cannot remove nor disable it. But there is no need to be concerned about it because it does not record all you actions. It fact, it activates few seconds before the collision only because its original purpose was to track the causes of airbag activation.

Car Black Box

The things a car black box records vary greatly from one car model to another but it usually records the speed, accelerating, decelerating, braking, etc. over the last five seconds before the accident. It does not record conversation in the car nor track the movement of the car but it can get you into trouble if causing an accident although most investigators rely on the traditional clues such as the length of tire marks, etc. However, the data obtained from the car black box can be and has been used as evidence in the courts. There have been some controversy over the use of the data from the black box for both court and insurance claims. However, the data from the car black box is not obtained that easily. In fact, some can be accessed only the car manufacturer.

There is a type of car black boxes known as video event data recorder that features both a GPS unit and a camera filming the driver’s view but these are installed by the drivers voluntarily for various reasons. The content of this car black box that also include records of the driver’s actions before the collision can be accessed by the device’s owner only because the data is stored on secure digital (SD) card requiring a password to access the data.

In general, a car black box does not seem to violate the driver’s privacy significantly. It is not like having a “Big Brother” in your car.