Is your car’s airbag system spying on you? Can the data be used against you after a crash?

Ever think about the privacy sensitive data that your car collects about you? After all, there’s a lot of technology in our cars today  . . . good luck finding the carburetor today, as compared to cars made before the turn of the millennium. There are computer chips, monitoring devices, GPS, and even internet connected devices aplenty embedded in your vehicle.

And how about those devices that insurance companies like GEICO and Allstate like to promote on TV?  The ones that offer you discounts on your car insurance for being a “good driver”?  Sounds great in theory . . . right up until you get into an accident and the data they collected then potentially be used against you, whether to disclaim coverage, reduce your recovery, or worse.

Even worse, what if the car crash leads to a fatality?

Well, a number of states have wrestled with a related issue, which is, who can gain access to the data collected by your airbag device once deployed; data that may fill in holes for the police of the factors that led up to the crash)? This includes information about your speed, braking, lane control, etc., all of which can be potentially very damaging if you get into the accident and are accused of a vehicular crime.

This is the very question I explore in an article just published by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) in their Privacy Digest.  Is the data collected by a car’s airbag device protected by the privacy protection of the 4th Amendment, and when/how can law enforcement gain access to that data to potentially use against you in a criminal prosecution?

Check out the article – basically, a high-level summary of the state of play in the 3 states that have considered this issue to date, with one state (Georgia) having taken this all the way to the Supreme Court of Georgia: https://iapp.org/news/a/do-you-have-airbag-privacy-rights-depends-on-which-court-you-ask/

Joel Schwarz

Joel Schwarz

Joel Schwarz is Managing Partner with the Schwarz Group LLC and an adjunct professor at Albany Law School, teaching courses on cybercrime, cybersecurity and privacy. He previously served as the Civil Liberties and Privacy Officer (CLPO) for the National Counterterrorism Center and was a cybercrime prosecutor for the Justice Dept. and N.Y. State Attorney General’s Office. Joel frequently speaks and writes on privacy matters (to include student data privacy and privacy in Education Technology), is a member of the Student Data Privacy Consortium (SDPC) and is Privacy & Security Vice-Chair of the Montgomery County PTA’s Safe-Tech Committee.

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