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Black Boxes. Big Brother?

16387 Views 109 Replies 42 Participants Last post by  Chryjf
Black Boxes. Big Brother? Your 300 has one!

I have mixed opinions on this topic. Let me know yours.

States Debate Auto 'Black Box' Privacy

BISMARCK, N.D. (March 25) - Raymon Holmberg didn't know his new sedan came equipped with the long arm of the law. The dealer hadn't bothered to mention the ''black box,'' a computer chip that stores information on speed and seat belt use.

''When I bought my car,'' he said, ''I didn't realize I was also buying a highway patrolman to sit in the back seat.''

Holmberg, a state senator, believes his privacy was violated and is taking aim at black boxes. Lawmakers in 10 other states are also hoping to regulate black boxes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The bill Holmberg is sponsoring - now up for Senate consideration after being approved Wednesday by the House - would require buyers to be told if their new car or truck is equipped with a black box and would prohibit the data from being used in court. Subscription services such as OnStar, which can be used to track a vehicle's movements, would be exempt.

Its most vocal critics are auto manufacturers. For General Motors, said lobbyist Thomas Kelsch, it makes no sense to bar information from the computer chip from being used in court.

''What's the societal good that would result from the suppression of valuable crash data?'' Kelsch asked.

But Holmberg, a Grand Forks Republican, again raises the privacy issue. He worries the data could be used to track driving habits or be used against a driver who has an accident.

''Most people don't realize these devices are in their vehicle, that the information recorded may be used against them and there's no sort of regulation about who owns that information,'' he said.

California has a law on the books requiring dealers and vehicle rental companies to inform drivers when a car has a black box. In New York it is illegal for rental companies to use global positioning system technology to track drivers and use the data to charge extra fees or penalties.

Accident investigators argue that the privacy concerns are overblown.

''These guys are trying to roll back North Dakota courts to the Dark Ages,'' said Jim Harris, owner of Harris Technical Services, a Florida-based accident investigation company. ''What are you going to do? Leave out videotapes?''

According to the National Highway Transportation Administration, about 15 percent of vehicles - or about 30 million cars and trucks - have black boxes. About 65 percent to 90 percent of 2004 cars and trucks have them, according to the NHTA.

Rusty Haight, director of the Collision Safety Institute, which researches crashes and trains accident investigators, said black boxes were introduced in cars along with air bags in the 1970s.

Air bag sensors already collected the information and it was a small step to allow researchers to see how well other systems were performing, Haight said.

North Dakota Highway Patrol Capt. Mark Bethke said crash investigators must have a warrant to access information from a recorder. He said the patrol collects such information less than once a month and has never used it in court.

John Buchanan, a Miami accident reconstruction expert, said investigators must compare what the recorder says to the physical evidence at an accident scene.

''I'm a big believer in the box,'' he said. ''But you cannot just take a box, read what it says and say that's what happened.''

Insurance companies already have limited access to some data.

State Farm requires its customers to help with investigations, including allowing insurance employees to look at their vehicles, said **** Luedke, a spokesman for the Illinois-based insurer.

Progressive Insurance began a voluntary program last year in which the company gives drivers a chip similar to a black box that can be used to transmit data, said spokeswoman Shannon Radigan.

Progressive offers drivers the possibility of a break on their insurance rates based on when, how much and how fast they drive, she said. The average discount is between 12 percent and 15 percent, she said.

North Dakota auto dealers say they have not heard many complaints about black boxes. Sales people say customers rarely ask about them. And police say the devices are not common.

''They're just not very prevalent,'' said Fargo Sgt. Joel Vettel.

03-25-05 0619EST
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I would like to know where the black box is located on our car.
I have read it is located under the driver or passenger seat.

Wesexcellence and Aspendog have taken the seats out.
I wonder if they know where the black box is located.
aspendog said:
Passenger side under seat.
We might be on to something.
Wesexcellence posted this pic. Is the black box in the picture?

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aspendog said:
It is actually attatched to the seat frame. Wes you should have no problems excpet for mabey a recalibration.
Can the car be driven without the front passenger seat installed, and black box plugged in? How about trying to disconnect the black box?
Wes, can you start the car without the black box/front seat electrical power system connected? Do any alarms go off?
Can you take some pictures of the black box and post on this thread?
I am confused. The picture Wes posted of the black box is under my driver seat, not the passenger seat. The passenger seat has a smaller box (about 1/3 the size of the box Wes pictured) with 2 red plugs attached.
Plain and simple. It is SPYWARE.
Where the hell is Congress and the Federal Trade Commission?
Who is carrying so much clout that everyone is so silent and chicken to fight this invasion of privacy?

At least give us an OPT-OUT switch. Make it optional if we want it on or not.
Here is my view on EDR.

The EDR is the same as if Microsoft installed a key logger, or other tracking software, on your computer, but had not yet implemented the collection of your personal information across the internet via Windows Updates.

You have no clue when Microsoft will decide to activate or start to download the data from your computer every time you run a Windows Update.

This scenario could at least be defeated by not downloading Windows Updates.

The EDR technology to collect our personal information has been installed on our cars, ready to be used by dealers, insurance companies, etc.. The next step in collecting and using this data has not yet been fully implemented.
Midnightsun300c said:
joey...let me say first that I had a look at your wheels today on another thread and now I wish I hadn't!:17: I've spent enough on rims and certainly don't need to spend any more but now I am really tempted! Nice!!! When I bought my aftermarket rims I gravitate toward more chrome mass but after seeing yours I really like the see through characteristic. Again...very nice!:)

More to the topic of this thread...when I first read the beginning of this thread I imagined a lot of personal data being stored on the CDR (Crash Data Retrieval) box and was very concerned and had the same reaction as you regarding invasion of personal space and privacy. After doing a little research it appears that just the speed, braking, transmission setting etc. in the last seconds before an airbag deployment is recorded. The more personal driving habits like maximum speed, hard breaking etc. may be recorded elsewhere...maybe the ECM(Electronic Control Module) or on an axillary aftermarket box that is now somewhat common in the cooperate car/truck world. I do not know this for a fact but it is written in a number of places including the two links provided in my last post.

I think that there is the possibility and maybe even the probability that the data that is currently being recorded will be expanded to include additional information not germane to the prevention of accidents unless concerned people like you and I support efforts like the NMA's(National Motorists Association) to thwart such attempts, but at the current time it doesn't appear to be happening through the CDR.

I am looking forward to discussing this subject with my Chrysler dealer and getting a better understanding as to what the StarScan can access. This may be the pandora's box of this issue!?
Thanks for the compliment. I also see other rims I wish I had bought. Sometimes I contemplate buying new rims every time I change tires!

I hear the argument that the EDR is "only" collecting a small amount of data at the time of an accident, at least for now. I don't want any data collected. SHADE said it best. It is our car. And not only that, the cost of the black box is being passed on to us, the consumer. For what? So some insurance company, or whoever, wants us to have it so they can use the information later?
Like my earlier comparison with Microsoft, we would all be revolting if Microsoft (or Dell, or Symantec, or whoever) started to install stuff (spyware) on our computer, for their later consumption. That is exactly what the EDR is. It doesn't matter it only collects 5 seconds of data. That is irrelevant.
glhs837 said:
Reread what you wrote. The EDR is a Tracking Device.
You are contradicting yourself.
As much as I disdain the black box, I once found myself wishing I had one. I was once rear ended on a freeway and I was shoved into a stopped car in front of me, as explained in this thread.

At the scene of the accident the Highway Patrol took their interviews but wouldn't say what their findings/conclusion was. While I was not at fault, I wished I had a recording of the accident to prove I was fully stopped before getting rear ended and shoved into the car in front.

Another case where a black box might help.

There have been numerous Magnum/Charger/300 owners reporting their cars are shutting off while driving. But no DTC's are showing up.
If/when a serious accident is caused by the car shutting off the only proof the car was at fault may be the black box.

So these boxes can be used to our advantage.

But I don't like the fact we cannot "op-out" of using the black box, and we ultimately are paying for these boxes if we like it or not.
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