Madden/Beach Bill to Restrict Access to Motor Vehicle Data, Protect Driver Privacy Advances

New Jersey Senate Chambers

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Fred Madden and Jim Beach to limit access to data from devices in certain automobiles that can capture information about the driver’s activity was approved today by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.
The bill (S-2433) would give the owner of a motor vehicle the sole right to access information stored in its black box, also known as an “electronic control module” (ECM) or an “event data recorder” (EDR). Such devices are capable of recording information about vehicle speed, seatbelt use, airbag deployment and locations traveled.

The legislation also includes a provision prohibiting data from being altered or deleted for at least two years after a crash that results in bodily injury or death. Violation of the provision would result in a civil penalty of $5,000 for each offense.

“Most new vehicles contain black boxes, unbeknownst to many drivers. While the information stored on the devices can be critical to piecing together events that transpired during an auto accident, there is also driver data being collected that should be protected. This will regulate who can access data on the black box and for what purpose,” said Senator Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester).
“As technology changes, we need to ensure that we are updating our laws in a way that provides for the best utilization of these new tools, especially when it comes to improvements that can help protect the public safety. However, we also must work to protect the privacy of our residents. This bill addresses both the allowable uses of the data and safeguards information that should be protected,” said SenatorBeach (D-Camden).
Under the bill, no person except the owner of the motor vehicle that contains the recording device, or the owner’s representative, may retrieve, obtain or use data recorded on, stored in or transmitted from the recording device, unless:

· the owner or the owner’s representative consents;
· the recorded data is retrieved or obtained by a law enforcement officer pursuant to a search warrant;
· the recorded data is used for the purpose of improving motor vehicle safety, provided that the identity of the owner, operator or other occupant of the motor vehicle is not disclosed with respect to the data;
· the recorded data is retrieved by a licensed motor vehicle dealer, repair or servicing facility and used for the sole purpose of diagnosing, servicing or repairing the vehicle, or;
· the recorded data is accessed by an emergency responder and used for the sole purpose of determining the need for or facilitating an emergency medical response in the event of a crash, and assisting the responder in performing his or her duties; or
· the recorded data is retrieved or obtained pursuant to a legally proper discovery request or order in a civil action, or is obtained pursuant to a grand jury subpoena. This however, would exclude video location data obtained through grand jury subpoena.

The bill would also allow a vehicle owner to consent to give a third party access to information contained on the device.

“Black boxes” are common among new vehicles.  In 2012 the National Transportation Safety Agency proposed that all new vehicles manufactured after September 2014 contain “black boxes.” There are currently no regulations concerning who has access to the data in motor vehicle black boxes and for what purposes.
The bill was approved by a vote of 4-0. It next goes to the full Senate for consideration.