They're Watching You.
There’s an old joke I know:
Car manufacturers have started testing out recording devices in cars that function like the black boxes in airplanes. The first data has come back and researchers have discovered that in 95% of the wrecks, the only words recorded before the crash were “oh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!”
The other 5% of wrecks, interestingly enough, all occurred in Texas. Here, the last words before an accident were always “hey, hold my beer and watch this.”
I always thought the “black box in cars” was still a thing of the future. But it turns out that 65% of cars released in 2005 are equipped with what they call Event Data Recorders. These EDRs don’t record sounds but do record what a car is doing in the moments before and after an accident—and they exist primarily for the use of law enforcement officers and attorneys investigating car crashes.
Most surprisingly, until the Highway Traffic Safety Administration passed a new regulation this morning, car manufacturers didn’t have to disclose to buyers whether or not their car contained an EDR. The new regulation requires auto dealers to start informing customers but it’s surprising how pervasive this technology has become without most drivers even being aware it existed.
Privacy advocates are clearly concerned but, as with most new monitoring systems, we’re told not to worry because the data will only be used against us if we break the law. Still, I’m continually amazed by how much data is collected on each and every one of us. I don’t think we’ve even begun to understand the ramifications of such massive data collection.
We could very well be headed for a time when all our daily actions will be at least be partially monitored and recorded. Of course, as everyone keeps saying, as long as we obey the law, we’ll have nothing with which to concern ourselves. My only question is: will it really be so benign? I doubt it. But I also doubt we can do much to prevent such a future from arriving. The tipping point has passed.