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Legislators may keep car 'black box' data private

Published February 20, 2013 3:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Many people do not know it, but newer vehicles contain a sort of "black box" that records data such as speed, direction, steering performance and when brakes or seat belts are used. Legislators took a first step Wednesday to allow car owners to keep that data private.

The House Transportation Committee unanimously approved HB127 and sent it to the full House. It would clarify that the data on such recorders belongs to the owners of the vehicle, and would enjoy the same protections as any other private property.

"It is to extend Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure to the data in your vehicle data recorder," said Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain, sponsor of the bill.

He said such recorders are "similar to a 'black box' on an airplane. It stores data about your vehicle and its usage. Each year these black boxes get more and more advanced, and in some cases store such data as geographical location." He said manufacturers began installing such devices in the early 1990s.

Lifferth said Utah law currently is silent about who owns the data, and different police agencies have different policies about who may access it and when. His bill would require permission from at least one owner, which may include a lien holder such as a bank, to obtain it.

However, the bill would also allow courts to issue warrants to obtain data for accident investigations or lawsuits. It also allows services such as OnStar to notify police in the case of accidents about the location of a vehicle.

Lifferth said 13 other states have similar laws.