'Acting as if' environmental laws exist when they don't - black boxes in cars could create havoc for owners
TRACKSIDE © by John D’Aloia Jr.
March 15, 2005
In a November 15, 2004, press release, it was related that all those being sued created a complex conspiracy aimed at scuttling the Marina Point Development at Big Bear Lake, California, even though the developers had all the required permits.
The allegation is that the named defendants and others used their positions of authority in an attempt to illegally stop the project in order to advance their own interests - they owned land in the vicinity of the development, the value of which would have been enhanced if the Marina Point land could have been acquired by the Forest Service.
In addition, the defendants are charged with providing false information to other government agencies, releasing confidential information gathered as required by law, refusing to honor Freedom of Information Act requests, and attempting to destroy evidence on their government computers. Sock it to them.
Not really secret law, but it may as well be, given the lack of information being given to car owners. The National Transportation Safety Board recently ruled that all new cars manufactured in the United States must have an electronic data recorder.
Some cars already have them - according to Fox News, every 2004 GM car has one installed - and the data has been used as evidence in criminal and civil cases. So far, only California has a law requiring dealers to notify buyers that their new car has an electronic data recorder.
The entire issue raises once again the definition of public purpose, the rights of the individual versus the right of government to achieve a particular public purpose. Besides the immediate concern of self incrimination when a device you supposedly own as part of your car reveals that you were speeding, or horrors, not wearing your seat belt, privacy experts have expressed other concerns.
One concern is mission creep. Once government is able to gather some information, soon it will be making a case for gathering even more "for the public good."
Professor Yale Kamisar of the University of Michigan Law School was quoted as rejoining "When you tell someone it is for their own good, then it should be their choice, they should be able to say no. None of these things work out the way they are supposed to. Why should we believe all of these assurances when they have not been honored in the past?"
The good professor is right on. The freedom of the open road could become just one more happy memory. One proposed use is a periodic readout of the black box by government, with automatic speeding tickets issued based on the data in the device. At least one auto rental company uses it and an incorporated GPS system thus, charging renters an added fee if they exceed the speed limit with the car they rented. If GPS is made a mandatory part of the system, Big Brother would be handed a means to keep track on you whenever you use your vehicle.
Should we be surprised that tax-dollar famished politicians and The Clerks also see the black boxes as the means to administer a large and continuous source of added revenue? California and Oregon politicians are proposing that a per mileage tax be levied on all vehicles, with the black boxes providing the data on how many miles your car has traveled.
Parents have found one private good in the technology. Road Safety International markets a $280.00 black box that allows parents to track the driving habits of their children by recording such data as seat belt use, excessive speed, hard cornering, and heavy braking. The device not only records the data, it sounds an alarm if parameters are exceeded. Supposedly it is a good seller. Planned is incorporation of a GPS unit so that parents can track where the car has been driven.
Good old American ingenuity has developed radar and laser detectors and scramblers. Somebody right now is probably working on a means to scramble the black boxes and their GPS components. Spy, counter spy.
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