AAA: Protect privacy in 'black box' mandate for autos

“Congress needs to ensure motorist rights are protected by passing legislation that prohibits access to data without permission from the owner or from a court order, unless the data is used for research purposes and cannot be tracked to a single vehicle,” Darbelnet continued.

DOT had already passed requirements for the types of data that should be captured by black boxes in cars that were manufactured after Sept. 1, 2012. However, that rule did not mandate all cars to contain the devices.

The agency said it was necessary to mandate the inclusion of the recorders in all vehicles because 8 percent of new cars would continue to be manufactured without them.

Darbelnet said automakers should be required to disclose to drivers the presence of data recorders in cars they purchase.

“All auto manufacturers should be required to prominently disclose the existence of EDR devices on new vehicles, not just with a sentence in the owner’s manual,” he said. “AAA looks forward to working with NHTSA and Congress to ensure strong privacy protections for motorists.”

The trade group for automakers, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, has also expressed privacy concerns about the proposed black box mandate.

"Event data recorders help our engineers understand how cars perform in the real world but looking forward, we need to make sure we preserve privacy," the group said in a statement after the DOT's announcement of the proposal. "Automakers do not access EDR data without consumer permission, and any government requirements to install EDRs on all vehicles must include steps to protect consumer privacy."