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A Black Box for your Car Isn’t Far Away

WASHINGTON, DC – A bill recently passed by the US Senate is likely to soon clear the House of Representatives which will require all new cars in the United States to come equipped with black box data recorders.

Section 31406 of Senate Bill 1812, also known as MAP-2, will dictate that “Mandatory Event Data Recorders” be installed in all new automobiles beginning in 2015. Civil penalties for failure to comply are included in the bill.

The bill states; “Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall revise part 563 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, to require, beginning with model year 2015, that new passenger motor vehicles sold in the United States be equipped with an event data recorder that meets the requirements under that part.”

The legislation states that the data recorded would remain the property of the vehicle’s owner but the government would retain the power to access it under a variety of circumstances. Such instances would include court orders or in conjunction with investigations or inspections conducted by the Secretary of Transportation.

The legislation, entitled “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act”, passed easily in the Senate under the sponsorship of Democrats Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer but is also expected to pass the Republican-controlled House.

As in most legislation, Senate Bill 1812, carries a number of seemingly unrelated riders. But some see connections others are missing. The bill also contains a provision that will empower the IRS to revoke passports of citizens merely accused of owing over $50,000 in back taxes. Under this provision, they would be stripped of their mobility rights by air, rail, or ship.

But could this provision also be applied to travel by automobile? Biometric face-recognition and transdermol sensor technology that prevents an inebriated person from driving a car by disabling the automobile has already been developed. There are also systems that prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver is deemed to be overtired.

Imagine a system in which drivers had to, in essence, gain permission from the state to drive each time they got behind the wheel, once it had been determined from an iris scan that they were good citizens who had paid all their taxes and broken no laws.

In 2006, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encouraged, but did not require, automobile manufacturers to install the systems. However, in February last year NHTSA administrator David Strickland said the government was considering making the technology mandatory in the wake of the recall of millions of Toyotas.

Given the innumerable examples of both government and industries illegally using supposedly privacy-protected information to spy on individuals, this represents a slippery slope toward total governmental surveillance of every American’s driving habits and location.

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