U.S. Senate passes bill protecting consumers’ privacy on vehicle data

By Erin Ayers on April 14, 2014

EDRThe United States Senate last week passed a bill (S. 1925) called the Driver Privacy Act that would limit retrieval of information from vehicle event data recorders, in an effort to safeguard consumers’ privacy.

Introduced by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and supported by 17 other senators from both parties, the measure would clarify that any data recorded by devices in passenger cars is the property of the owner or lessee of the car. Access to the data by any other party would only be allowed if mandated by a court, in the event the data are needed to respond to a motor vehicle accident, or with the express written permission of the owner. Data could also be used for traffic safety research, if all personally identifiable information of the owner or lessee remains private. Insurers could also use the data, with the permission of the vehicle owner.

Sen. Hoeven, introducing the bill in the Senate earlier this year, stated, “Every automobile that will be made going forward, over 90 percent, and something like 96 percent of the automobiles made now have a black box.”

He added, “It is absolutely an equal number of Republicans and Democrats from across the United States have joined together, recognizing people are concerned about their privacy and we need to make sure their privacy is protected.”

According to Hoeven, lawmakers worked closely with privacy advocates as well as other organizations that have an interest in gathering vehicle data, including automobile dealers, insurers and law enforcement officials. Interest in usage-based insurance has grown steadily among insurers in recent years, with some insurers launching their own vehicle data collection programs for the purpose of setting premiums based on individual driving behavior.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that event data recorders can “make a major impact on highway safety, assisting in real-world data collection to better define the auto safety problem, aiding in law enforcement, and understanding the specific aspects of a crash.”

EDRs can track vehicle speed, whether brakes were applied in the moments before a crash, whether vehicle occupants were using seat belts, and information about the engine and airbags.

eayers@advisen.com'

Erin is an editor at Advisen. She has 15 years of journalism experience. Prior to Advisen, Erin covered property-casualty insurance for 13 years as editor-in-chief of The Standard, New England’s Insurance Weekly. Erin is based in Boston, Mass. Contact Erin at [email protected].