Privacy couldn't be much hotter of a topic at the moment, so it's appropriate to learn now about "black boxes" that could become not only the norm in our cars, but a requirement. Apparently, many newer cars already feature these boxes, called Event Data Recorders (EDRs), but few consumers who own these vehicles know about them. Currently, it's not required by the car manufacturer to tell their customers about these boxes, but if the "Black Box Privacy Protection Act" gets accepted, things will change.
As with most high-level privacy invasions, EDRs are designed to "protect us". They can monitor the vehicle's speed, whether or not the brakes were applied before a crash, the forces at the point of impact, information about the engine throttle, air bag information and perhaps the best one: whether or not you had your seatbelt buckled.
It's easy to understand how information like this could help you in the event of a crash, but likewise, the same information could be used against you - and we've seen time and time again that insurers will use any information to their advantage.
At the moment, the laws surrounding EDR are almost nonexistent, but this legislation aims to fix that. If in place, all data on an EDR would become property of the vehicle owner, and it'd be deemed illegal to gather it without their consent (we'd imagine that might be vetoed in the event of a fatal accident). It'd also require vehicle sellers to explain to their customers about the EDR in their car, exactly what sort of information it'd gather, and how it could be used.
This legislation would also see consumers able to "control" the data that the EDR stores, but whether or not anyone would be able to turn it off entirely isn't quite clear.