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Hoeven, Klobuchar propose federal law to protect driver data

Cali Owings | Forum News Service

FARGO — If you drive a newer vehicle, it’s likely equipped with a little black box that continually collects information about the vehicle’s operation.

That data includes basics such as speed and seat belt use, and more specific details such as the exact position of the driver’s seat or number of times the engine has been started in its lifetime.

As more vehicles are equipped with this technology, Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. announced legislation Tuesday that would protect the driver data it collects.

Fourteen states, including North Dakota, already have laws that protect this information.

The federal legislation would prevent anyone from accessing the information unless the owner consents, a court authorizes it or the data is required for a vehicle recall, traffic safety research or emergency medical response following a crash.

Protecting the data is becoming more important because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing a new rule requiring the device to be included in all new automobiles, Hoeven and Klobuchar say.

By their estimate, more than 96 percent of 2013 new car models were equipped with the recording device.

Though their use is widespread, Hoeven said many people do not realize their information is being stored.

“People aren’t necessarily aware that there is such a thing,” he said.

With recent scandals involving the National Security Agency and the Internal Revenue Service, Hoeven said Americans are concerned about their personal privacy.

Klobuchar touted the safety and law enforcement applications of the technology while emphasizing a need to ensure consumer privacy. The list of other people, agencies and companies who might want access to driver data is “endless,” she said

Both senators said it is important for legislation to be ahead of the technology curve.

“When Ford made the first Ford, I don’t think he envisioned that in one of his cars would be something that would allow people to track you wherever you go,” Klobuchar said.

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