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House votes to limit access to car 'black boxes'

Published March 1, 2013 3:18 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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

The Utah House voted Friday to make it more difficult for cars to spy on their owners.

It voted 67-0 to pass HB127 to clarify that data in "black boxes" in newer vehicles belong to the vehicle's owners, and can be accessed only with permission of at least one of them. The data recorders track such things as speed, direction, steering performance and when brakes or seat belts are used.

"A lot of people aren't aware they are there," said Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain. He said some appeared in the 1990s, and they have become increasingly advanced over time.

"They know where you are, and what route you took to get there," Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, said in debate earlier in the week.

Lifferth said Utah law has been silent about who owns the data, and different police agencies have different policies about who may access it and when.

The bill hit a snag earlier this week when many lawmakers worried that original wording in the bill allowed lien holders, such as banks, to have access to the information. Lifferth pulled it for several days, and later amended it so that only the owners who possess a car have access to the data.

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. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.