Car black box privacy threat

Don't upset your motor - it might see you in court

Car giant General Motors is facing a lawsuit claiming that it has violated privacy laws by installing black box recorders in its vehicles to record information about speed, braking and seat belt use in the moments leading up to a crash, reports Bloomberg.

The suit claims that the world's largest car company failed to tell motorists about the existence of the recorders, saying the devices are aimed solely at helping to design safer cars and to help investigators in accident reconstruction. GM is alleged to have failed to inform motorists about the existence of the devices or what they do, amounting to an invasion of privacy.

Eight 1999 US models are listed in the complaint: the Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro; the Pontiac Firebird; the Cadillac DeVille, El Dorado, and Seville; and the Buick Century and Park Avenue.

The modules in the Cadillac DeVille also record speed, engine RPM, brake and throttle data.

"We think that our collection and use of the data is legal and appropriate," said a GM spokesperson. "When accidents occur, the device is providing a level of precision that you may not have otherwise in a crash situation."

"Our policy is that we have to get the vehicle owner's permission," they added. "If the owner requests it, they can get a copy of downloaded data."

"In most instances, the recording has been taking place without the owners ever knowing about it," said a lawyer for the plaintiff, one Sherry Valan. "It raises very troubling questions about informed consent."

The lawsuit also alleges that GM also has used the data against at least one car owner to defend a product liability suit. ®

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