New legislation requiring a warrant from law enforcement to access onboard vehicle computers for California motorists rolled into the House and Senate. It arguably closes an exploited gap in the Fourth Amendment that allowed information obtained from onboard computers to be extracted without a warrant.
About car spying
Car manufacturers have touted their sophisticated smart devices that allow motorists to do many things while on the road. Many drivers signed up for this assisted technology but may have gotten more than they bargained for: These intelligent devices track their owners’ movement while secretly downloading their personal information.
This stealth revelation of information has given law enforcement the opportunity to gather data about the owner without consent. Law enforcement works with a bevy of companies that data-mine cell phone information that the owner may not wish to share. Photos, text messages, call logs and other private information are up for grabs with the technology they use. Information stored on smartphones is protected under the Fourth Amendment, and extracting data would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant to do so. However, with new technology, law enforcement can bypass legal protocols.
Help is on the way
The Closing the Warrantless Digital Car Search Loophole Act has now been brought to the House and Senate and would prohibit these warrantless searches, thus closing that gap in the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, any evidence gathered from a warrantless search would be disallowed in court to prove probable cause. One representative behind the bill contends, “New vehicles are computers on wheels and should have the same Fourth Amendment protections.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has used the services of a third party to spy on motorist activities. Using sophisticated technology, it could detect motorists’ locations, their call logs, emails, photos, and videos, among other personal information.
Under the Closing, the Warrantless Digital Car Search Loophole Act, CBP’s use of such tools would not be allowed.
What does the new bill do?
The bill will protect the data privacy of motorists. It is supported by politicians on both sides of the spectrum as well as many rights groups. In a big world of mass surveillance, this new bill reaffirms that Americans still have constitutional rights worth fighting for.