Hoeven, Klobuchar Driver Privacy Act Moves Forward, Passes Committee

Bill Ensures Personal Privacy of Automobile Data Recorder Information

WASHINGTON – The Driver Privacy Act, introduced by Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), moved a step closer to passage today when the Senate Commerce Committee voted unanimously to approve the legislation. The bipartisan bill, which protects a driver’s personal privacy by making explicit that the owner of a vehicle also owns the information collected by the vehicle’s Event Data Recorder (EDR), now has 23 cosponsors.

An EDR has the ability to continuously collect at least 45 pieces of information about a vehicle’s operation that can be retrieved at any time. This includes direction, speed, seatbelt usage and other data. The senators’ legislation would ensure that the vehicle owner controls the data to protect personal privacy.

“We have heard from many people who support our Driver Privacy Act, and it is gaining real momentum in the Senate,” Hoeven said. “People understand and are concerned about the new risks to personal privacy, and they want some certainty that their Fourth Amendment rights won’t be violated. Our bill makes clear that the data on a vehicle’s EDR belongs to the owner of the vehicle except under very well-defined circumstances.”

“Event data recorders can play a key role in improving vehicle safety, but we need to make clear that the owner of the car is the rightful owner of the data collected by an event data recorder,” Klobuchar said. “That’s exactly what this commonsense legislation does, and today’s vote moves us one step closer to passing it into law and protecting drivers’ privacy.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that more than 96 percent of new 2013 car models are currently equipped with an EDR, but in December 2012 the agency proposed rules that would mandate the installation of EDRs in all light-duty vehicles. The proposal raised widespread questions and concerns regarding the ownership of the data, which prompted Senators Hoeven and Klobuchar to craft legislation that would protect drivers anywhere in the United States.

In fact, 14 states, including North Dakota, have passed laws related to EDRs. States with laws protecting drivers’ ownership of EDR data include Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington. North Dakota passed an EDR privacy statue in 2005, while Senator Hoeven was governor.

These state laws, however, apply only in the states that have them; drivers are unprotected in states that do not. To address privacy concerns regarding the device, the Hoeven-Klobuchar legislation specifies that data from an EDR may not be retrieved in any state unless:

  • Authorized by a court of law
  • The vehicle owner or lessee consents to the data retrieval
  • The information is retrieved pursuant to a NHTSA recall and all personally identifiable information is not disclosed
  • The information is retrieved in determining the need for emergency medical response following a motor vehicle crash (used in vehicles equipped with Advanced Automatic Crash Notification systems)
  • The information is retrieved for traffic safety research (but cannot contain any personally identifiable information, like VIN #).

Cosponsors of the bill include Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Angus King (I-Maine), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Michael Bennet (D-Col.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Chris Coons (D-Del.) Al Franken (D-Minn.), John Thune (R-S.D.) Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.).