Driver Privacy Act Now Protects Information Contained Within Your Vehicle

02/29/2016 by Attorney Spencer J. Guld

Authored by Spencer Guld

On December 4th, 2015, President Obama signed the Driver Privacy Act of 2015, which was enacted to address privacy concerns for data collected in a car’s event data recorder (EDR). The purpose of the Act was to ensure that contained in an EDR information could not be freely accessed by anyone other than the owner/lessee.  EDR’s were originally installed in automobiles to help car manufacturers to better improve air bag technology, but they now have valuable information and data which have effects going far beyond its originally intended purpose. An EDR has the ability to record data seconds before and after a collision. This date can include whether a driver’s seatbelt was buckled, how far the accelerator was pressed, the seat position of a driver, if the brakes were applied before the collision, and the vehicle’s speed. As you can imagine, this is extremely valuable information that could likely decide issues of fault and liability after a collision based on the information contained within the EDR.

This Act now prohibits access to the data recorded on an EDR by anyone other than the vehicle’s owner or lessee. There are limited exceptions which include: 1) as authorized pursuant to a court authority subject to the standards of admissible evidence; 2) pursuant to the written, electronic, or recorded audio consent of the vehicle owner or lessee; 3) to carry out investigations pursuant to federal law; 4) if necessary to facilitate medical care in response to a car accident; 5) for traffic safety research, as long as the personal information of the owner/lessee is not disclosed.

This is an important piece of legislation for businesses. If your employees are operating company-owned or company-leased vehicles, then the company has the right to access information contained on the EDR. The company, not the employee, would have to consent to anyone else’s access to the EDR, unless the access is otherwise authorized by law. Although not required, the business may want to notify employees that the business may monitor EDR information; notifying the employees of such monitoring may deter abuse of the company-owned or company-leased vehicle. If your employees are operating their own vehicles for company business, absent a court order or subpoena you will have to obtain the employee’s written, electronic, or recorded audio consent before accessing the EDR information.

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