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Algemeen Dagblad, 9 August 2016: 'Police want black box in every car'

The black box in cars minutely records driving behaviour. The police would like to have that data, as it tells a lot more than traces on the road surface.

In 2009, the Rotterdam police first used the Event Data Recorder, the black box. (...) After a trial in Rotterdam, seven of the 10 police regions will start using the technology this year. Modern cars have an Event Data Recorder (EDR) built into them, similar to an aircraft black box. (...)

The EDR records time, location, braking behaviour, speed, pedal position, airbag operation and so on. In serious accidents in which the police's Traffic Accident Analysis Department is investigating, the last five seconds before the accident can be consulted in the EDR. (...)

The technology is already there, but has been used only sparsely. The Rotterdam police have consulted the EDR in 21 accidents in the past three years. (...) The police regions Oost-Nederland, Midden-Nederland, Amsterdam, Limburg , Oost-Brabant, The Hague and Rotterdam are now in possession of the EDR equipment and their people in the Traffic Accident Analysis Department are being trained to use it.

Black box
The use of the EDR as a witness is expected to take off. In the US, the black box has been mandatory in all new cars since 2014. (...) EDR, unlike in the US, is not yet mandatory in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. Trade association RAI does not know which cars store data. According to estimates, 70 per cent of newly sold cars have some kind of black box. There is no uniform storage yet. Often, the data can only be read by the car manufacturer. Not all car manufacturers allow the EDR to be read by third parties. Moreover, if the manufacturer is asked to read out the black box, high costs are incurred. In the trial in Rotterdam, where the help of the manufacturer or importer was sought, the costs varied between €800 and €2,000. (...)

There are also concerns. What is and is not allowed with the data a car collects is still shadowy territory. Car trade association Bovag and The ANWB has long advocated for better legislation to determine how the data should be handled. Privacy organisation Privacy First thinks it is fine if people data wíll sharing. ''But there should be encryption of the data and it should be possible to turn off the black box. You as a motorist should be able to decide what is stored. Because it is nobody's business how you move in public space," says Privacy First director Vincent Böhre.
The next application using data from the car is eCall, a mandatory European system where the car itself calls 112 if the computer in the car calculates that speed and impact were such that a serious accident with injuries must have occurred. eCall is expected to become mandatory for new cars in 2018."

Source: Algemeen Dagblad 9 August 2016, front page and pp. 8-9. Full articles online: & . Also published in AD/Rotterdams Dagblad, AD/De Dordtenaar, AD/Haagsche Courant, AD/Green Hart, AD/Utrechts Nieuwsblad, AD/Rivierenland, AD/Amersfoortse Courant, BN/DeStem, Brabants Dagblad, Dagblad de Limburger, Limburgs Dagblad, Twentsche Courant Tubantia, De Gelderlander, De Stentor, Eindhovens Dagblad, Leeuwarder Courant & Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant (9 August 2016) and quoted in de Volkskrant (10 August 2016, p. 8) and Nederlands Dagblad (13 August 2016, pp. 18-19).

Read below Privacy First chairman Bas Filippini's earlier response in daily newspaper Spits to plans to introduce the so-called "Crashcube" (black box/EDR) in 2011: 

Privacy watchdogs are concerned about the introduction of a 'black box' in passenger cars. This afternoon, the Rotterdam-Rijnmond police presented this so-called Crashcube in the hope that this technology will help settle traffic accidents. But the Privacy First Foundation warns of possible misuse.

Besides planes, cars are now also getting a black box. The device is called the Crashcube and should help police analyse accidents.

The Crashcube allows forensic experts to read on-the-spot information about accidents, such as the speed and g-force of the car involved, Rotterdam Rijnmond police reported in a press statement.

The data from the box is incontrovertible and will therefore provide strong evidence in court of who is guilty of the accident, says the Rotterdam police who developed the Crashcube together with the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), Rijksdienst voor Wegverkeer (RDW) and Rijkswaterstaat.

Privacy First Foundation president Bas Filippini does not see the point of a cube in the courts. "It is almost always clear in court who the guilty party is, and to give up your privacy for those few cases where it is not. That goes way too far for me." According to the foundation, the device affects personal freedom. "A driver should be able to decide for himself whether he wants a Crashcube in his car, but you will always see that at some point these things become compulsory. This does not fit with our constitutional freedom to be free and happy in public spaces." Filippini fears the Cube will be abused. "It starts with accident analysis, but soon the police will pull you over and read your Crashcube on which they will fine you for driving 150 yesterday."

Source: Spits 30 November 2011,

Read HERE also Privacy First's earlier response to the European introduction of eCall.

In case of mandatory Dutch introduction of both black boxes/EDR and eCall in cars, Privacy First will challenge this in court with the aim of voluntary rather than mandatory introduction and the motorist's own control over his/her data. 

Update 10 August 2016: See also today's report at RTL News, Police want to be able to read black box in cars:

Update 13 August 2016: Today, the Reformatorisch Dagblad published some further commentary by Privacy First, see (also published in paper edition, p. 9). Below are some excerpts:

"Privacy First says it is not necessarily against the introduction of a black box, but only on a voluntary basis and with legally regulated applications. Because, according to the foundation's director Vincent Böhre, who wants to protect people's anonymity in the public domain, dangerous applications lurk. He refers to leasing companies, insurers and other stakeholders who would like to know more about driving behaviour, wear and tear and damage risk.

"It seems to be innocent data, but from someone's driving behaviour you can even extract a personality analysis, which could be of interest to an employer or the government," Böhre says. "It should be clear that the car data is owned by the driver."

(...) According to a National Police document released this week, investigations using the black boxes have so far been carried out in 21 cases from 2013 to 2015. Since the prosecutor had seized the car in those cases, the owner could not refuse. The investigations are costly though: between €800 and €2,000 each time.

In that limited number of cases where data has been read, the Privacy First foundation sees another reason to refrain from a mandatory black box introduction for the time being. "With 21 investigations in three years, it is basically shooting a gun at a gnat," says director Böhre. "It is really questionable whether the incorporation of such a black box is proportionate and socially necessary."

He additionally predicts that this one application of the black box for the sake of accident investigation will lead to perhaps 20 unwanted by-products, such as higher premiums for motorists who often brake hard and drive too fast or extra surcharges for lease drivers with an aggressive driving style. Böhre: "It is important to think carefully about the negative consequences now, because this will soon play out across Europe."

Update 25 August 2016: read also Privacy First warmly welcomes this public debate and hopes it will lead to an outcome that does justice to everyone's privacy as well as other relevant interests.