From the November 2004 Idaho Observer:

NTSB to require autos be equipped with black boxes

by The Idaho Observer

According to reporter Kelley Beuacar Vlahos of FOX news, the National Transportation Safety Board has ruled that it will "require electronic data recorders, or ‘black boxes,’ in all new cars manufactured in the United States."

There is growing concern in the ranks of privacy advocates, but the age of the computerized snitch is already upon us. According to FOX, automakers began complying with the government’s intrusive agenda before being required to do so.

"Black boxes have been fitted into every General Motors car in its 2004 line and is in a number of Ford models—about 15 percent of all vehicles on the road today, according to road safety experts," wrote Vlahos.

One would think that the NTSB would be discouraged with the performance of black boxes as they haven’t had a very good track record of late. It has been well-noted by independent thinkers that the recovery of flight data recorders affixed to all commercial airplanes never reveal any clues as to why some airplanes crash under suspicious circumstances

The NTSB ruling is apparently just an indication that its turning the frog water up a few more degrees. Many late-model cars already have black boxes capable of recording and storing such data as speed, brake pressure, seat belt use and air bag deployment. Vlahos noted that black box data, "has already been used in determining guilt in criminal and civil cases across the country."

Black box proponents, in government and industry do not admit their intent is to have another way of collecting information on people for the purpose of prosecuting, convicting and extracting revenue from motorists. The publicly acknowledged purpose of mandating that cars come equipped with electronic snitches is so the data collected can be used to study how accidents happen and how to make roads and cars safer for the people driving them.

The irony

Imagine the following scenario: You go out and buy a new car with a fully-functional black box, power-windows, air-conditioning, air bags, automatic seatbelts, sun-roof and CD-player with surround sound. For the joy of driving in this 21st century chariot, you can afford to pay $457 a month to pay for it, $200 a month to insure it and $10 a month to license it.

Now understand that, by law, your faithful inanimate companion is a snitch. Your chariot, which costs you—not including gas, maintenance and repairs—$657 a month to drive, will be storing information on you that can be downloaded by court order so it can and will be used against you in a court of law.

The irony here need not be added to this story as it is self-evident; the irony need only be understood so we can attach the proper value to new cars.

Nowhere to hide

After a trial that lasted nearly six months, Scott Peterson was found guilty of murdering his wife Laci and their unborn child.

Before Peterson was charged, police, without a court order, placed a GPS device on his car to track him wherever he went. During this time when Peterson was under electronic surveillance, police claim he traveled twice to the location where the bodies were later found.

In another case from Washington state, the online journal "Government Technology" described how a murder case was solved with a GPS device. "Under the premise that suspects often return to the crime scene," police attached a GPS device to the car of a man accused of killing his 9-year-old daughter. Eventually, the man led police to the girl’s grave. The man was arrested and convicted of killing his daughter.

As is commonly done, the use of certain technologies or procedures is justified by showing how the public benefits from it. Seldom is the public warned of the abuse potential of a given technology or procedure.

Attaching a GPS device to a car is "the equivalent of placing an invisible police officer in as person’s back seat," said Doug Honig of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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