Committee Approval Takes Bipartisan Measure a Step Closer to Senate Passage

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Hoeven (R-ND) today announced that the bipartisan Driver Privacy Act, their legislation to protect the privacy of a driver’s personal data, has passed out of committee. The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation unanimously approved the bill today, sending it to the Senate floor for subsequent debate.

The bill makes clear that the owner of a vehicle is also the owner of any information collected by an Event Data Recorder (EDR). An EDR is an onboard electronic device that has the ability to continuously collect at least 43 pieces of information about a vehicle’s operation. This includes direction, speed, seatbelt usage and other data. The senators’ legislation would ensure that the vehicle owner controls the data and their personal privacy is protected.

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. NHTSA has said it lacks the regulatory authority to address privacy concerns regarding EDR data, which prompted Senators Hoeven and Klobuchar to craft legislation that would protect drivers anywhere in the United States.

“We shouldn’t have to choose between improving driver safety and protecting driver privacy,” Klobuchar said. “Our bipartisan bill puts car owners in the driver’s seat when it comes to protecting their private information, and today’s unanimous vote means we’re one step closer to getting this bipartisan bill signed into law.”

“Unanimous passage of our bill in committee represents a big step forward for personal privacy,” Hoeven said. “People want to know that the information recorded by the EDR in their cars is information that they will retain and control so that their privacy is protected. Our bill helps to ensure that government and other entities respect the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans.”

Fifteen states, including North Dakota, have passed laws related to EDRs. States with laws protecting drivers’ ownership of EDR data include Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

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 data is retrieved pursuant to an investigation;
  • The information is retrieved for traffic safety research 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 bill also increases privacy by requiring NHTSA to conduct a study on the amount of time event data recorders installed in passenger motor vehicles should capture and record for retrieval vehicle-related data in conjunction with an event, as well as require the Administrator of NHTSA to promulgate regulations based upon the study.